Triceratops is undoubtedly one of the most famous dinosaurs ever. If Tyrannosaurus is the theropod par excellence, Trike is its arch nemesis. Their rivalry is a topos of paleoart and although this dinosaur was already an extraordinary animal in itself, this status has only increased its popularity. This formula has worked so well that even today in both movies and news articles the T. rex becomes like a kind of unit of measure for how big, strong, ancient, bad, and the list may still be long, was that new dinosaur.

Our face with three horns is the classic and as they say in a certain movie “You can’t beat the classic”. Or rather, it is that for the vast majority of fans. On closer inspection, although it is the first thing one thinks of when evoking the image of a ceratopsid, many of its relatives are decidedly more captivating with those collars with the most varied shapes, full of thorns and tinsel.

Assorted skulls of ceratopsids at the Natural History Museum of Utah

Triceratops is essential. The collar is short for a chasmosaur, with an almost smooth and vaguely circular outline. Even the epiparietal bones, the small triangles that can be seen adorning the skull in some reconstructions, were reabsorbed during growth. The huge fenestra that served to lighten the skull of other ceratopsids were absent in Triceratops. In short, evolution has shaped these animals to have a Spartan shield, certainly in a figurative sense but with not too much of a stretch also from a concrete point of view. On the other hand, when you find yourself living with a huge bone-breaking predator, having a solid and compact defense is certainly a good start.

Almost immediately after the establishment of the genus, just before 900, paleontologists indulged in minting new species to be ascribed to it. From a certain point of view they cannot be blamed, over time it was discovered that the skull of these animals changed drastically during growth, so much so that in the past the famous paleontologist Jack Horner even went so far as to hypothesize that the related genus Torosaurus could actually be a particularly mature form of Triceratops. Today we have two safe species: T. horridus and T. prorsus both established by Marsh, while Torosaurus continues to be a distinct genus. These two species lived in the same places but in different periods, in fact, while horridus is found in the oldest sediments of the Hell Creeck Formation, prorsus is in the ones that are more recent. There is an interval of two million years between the two. To distinguish one another just check the horns. In horridus the nasal horn is relatively shorter than in prorsus, while the opposite occurs for the two large supraorbital ones.

So which one of the two species did Eofauna want to portray? The answer is surprisingly none. Since the market is full, if not overflowing with Triceratops models this company has managed to reconcile the desire to reproduce an extremely famous animal but in one unprecedented form and therefore this model is able to attract the curiosity of buyers. As mentioned above, there is a two million years gap between the two valid Triceratops species, a time during which, in all probability, the morphology of the first has shifted to that of the other. Therefore, in theory if you will look among the rocks with an intermediate age, it should be possible to find animals with intermediate characteristics. And so it happened. Among these remains, there are those of MOR 3027, which have become more famous with the nickname “Yoshi’s Trike”, in honor of the discoverer. It is self-evident to say that this individual is not classifiable at a specific level. And MOR 3027 is the one specimen used as a reference by Eofauna for the model.

The packaging is very sparse, but considering that in most cases it would be thrown away or placed in a corner to collect dust, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Even if there is no box, the horns and the collar are protected by a plastic “mask” that prevents them from being scratched or deformed. A small piece of paper with some information on Triceratops and MOR 3027 and a playing card with a series of statistics hangs from a strap tied to one arm. On the card stands the artwork dedicated to this model which shows both the coloring variants produced by Eofauna: dominant and cryptic . Specifically, the protagonist of this review is a cryptic (and so it will be called from now on), however since there are no other differences except the livery, everything will also be valid for the dominant .

Cryptic is 24 cm long or better this would be its length in neutral pose. Using the 1:35 scale shown in the information sheet, it’s possible to understand that the model should represent an animal of 8.40 meters. This length is perfectly in line with the 8.3 meters marked on the card. It’s excellent news for those who care about collecting reproductions on the same scale as it is the one used for most of the models, especially those of the best workmanship. To be really precise it should be said that in reality Yoshi’s Trike was a sub-adult animal and did not even remotely reach this size. There are no official measurements because the skeleton has not been studied yet, but it should be about just over six meters long. Furthermore, if we always remain in the context of relatively complete skeletons, the largest so far discovered “Big John” does not even reach seven and a half meters. This does not mean that larger Triceratops could not have existed, but simply that these upward estimates, the more generous ones also speak of nine meters, are based on decidedly more incomplete specimens and should not be taken at face value. It is curious that the fragments presumably belonging to the largest specimen ever UCMP 128561 come from exactly the same level in the Hell Creek Formation in which MOR 3027 was found.

Returning to Cryptic, the time has come to dwell on the chosen pose. Once again, the fighting dinosaur icon is fully respected. As mentioned in the introduction, Triceratops is in the popular imagination something more than a normal animal. The eternal struggle against its tyrannical rival has meant that in most of the representations this genre is portrayed in an intimidating attitude with a wide-open beak and ready to sell its life dearly. Examples are the Collecta and Safari models. It happens that similar poses are used for other ceratopsids but there are also more neutral interpretations with the animal portrayed while walking or grazing. Eofauna goes a little further in this glorification of the fighting spirit.

The head is raised up and turned to the right with the mouth wide open, Cryptic is clearly trying to scare another animal, be it another Triceratops or a predator it doesn’t matter. The forelimbs are planted on the ground and seem ready to spring to make the animal leap forward. The fact that the arms are not columnar as in a sauropod but slightly apart is perfectly in line with the interpretation in force on the posture of the ceratopsids, the same thing is true for the fingers of the hands which are not facing forward but turned outwards. The gap created between the head projected upwards and the limbs pointed back highlights the shoulders, normally obscured by the collar, which protrude making the animal even more threatening and massive. Neck, body, and tail create a single harmonic curve to the right and upwards, it seems almost possible to see energy lines that start from the tail go up and concentrate on the tip of the enormous supraorbital horns. The hind limbs increase the dynamism even more, in fact, while in front the action is imminent behind it has already begun. The right leg is well anchored to the ground and is making the animal move forward. The left has just been raised and is making a wide stride that favors the rotation to the right. If only the two hindquarters were shown in a photo, one could undoubtedly imagine that the animal is “galloping”. So what to say, an extremely dynamic pose. It would be impossible to do better without the aid of a base or support that would allow the model to remain suspended. As said before, the basic idea is not new, but how it has been rendered means that we cannot fail to applaud the work done. Triceratops will arrive in the future more relaxed, perhaps lying on the ground “But THIS IS NOT THE DAY!”

And now everything is ready to make hair and counter hair, indeed, scales and counter scales to Cryptic’s anatomy.

Let’s start with the skin. For once there is little to speculate, not only have many Ceratopsidae skin prints been found, but they are also quite extensive portions and above all many finds are of Triceratops. So we can say with some confidence that the dinosaur in life should not be too dissimilar from what we see on the model: large polygonal scales on the back of the animal interspersed with others slightly larger and protruding, like nodules, randomly and fairly distributed. It has long been speculated that these non-flat scales could actually be the basis of thorn-like structures, unfortunately, there is no evidence about it at the moment and even the preserved skin, although famous even in the non-academic field, has never been subjected to an actual scientific study. Moving to a ventral view it is immediately possible to notice that the shape of the scales is different, roughly rectangular, not too dissimilar from what can be seen on the belly of crocodiles. Even in this case, the reconstruction is perfectly supported by the fossil remains. There are no fossil footprints of the integument on the other parts of the animal. The pattern used, gradually smaller scales going towards the ends, does not clash and indeed integrates perfectly with the one present on the body.

A separate mention has to be made for the head. The whole skull has a very different surface. Smooth on the beak and horns and coarser on the remainder of the muzzle. This aesthetic choice suggests a skin covered with a strongly keratinized layer. In correspondence of the bony nostrils, there are a series of more pronounced furrows, probably here they wanted to represent smooth skin or very small scales that are rightly not distinguishable on this scale. The latter choice is further enhanced by the brighter color in the cryptic variant. The skull of the ceratopsids, and of Triceratops in particular, in fact, has an enormous cavity in this point. It has been speculated that here in life fleshy tissues could be housed which at least in part could be insufflated during breathing and which served as an external wall for the nasal cavities. Of course, this bone-free space also served to lighten the huge skull. Perhaps the only thing on the skin that could be criticized is the choice to insert the scales also on the collar. According to a study by Horner and Marshall in 2002, the surface of the collar, even in its posterior portion, has the same roughness characteristics found on the bony horns. It is now known for sure that in life the bony portion of the horn is covered with a keratin case, which is generally not preserved with fossilization. If this keratin gives me so much, it had to continue without interruption from the horns to the back of the animal’s collar. The ideal would have been to make this whole portion of the head smooth with grooves in the discontinuity portions. An example of this approach can be seen in the Triceratops of the “Beasts of the Mesozoic” line.

We remain on the skull considering it this time in its entirety. The shape reflects more than well what the fossil record tells us. Although Yoshi’s Trike was still a sub-adult, the head did not differ particularly from what is observed in more mature specimens, the most radical transformations of growth had already taken place. It always amazes the attention to detail that Eofauna has. In the mouth both the teeth and the choanas are visible. The nostril hole is correctly positioned on the tip of the muzzle and also the ear holes are clearly visible. The collar has the right shape but on the edge you can see the epiparietal bones now almost completely reabsorbed. In the reconstruction of the skeleton of Yoshi’s Trike they are not present, moreover, in theory in the fully mature specimens, such as the one that should represent Cryptic, these should be completely absent. It is therefore not possible to justify them except by speculating that although the bone has now become one with the rest of the collar, any overlying keratin has remained a “decoration”. Supraorbital horns have the right shape and inclinations. They do not perfectly reflect those of the fossil, but the same consideration as before applies, namely that Cryptic should be a fully grown adult and not a sub-adult, in addition to the bony part, the keratinous pouch mentioned above should always be added. Consequently, it is more than right that the horns are slightly more curved and imposing than in MOR 3027 and indeed, if desired, the sculptor could have dared even more. Recall that this fossil has the longest horns ever discovered so far in Triceratops, 115 cm, and the fact that it still had to grow makes us understand how majestic they could be in an animal of eight or nine meters. Although it is less striking, it is also necessary to dwell on the small nasal horn. The shape and inclination do not reflect at all what is seen in the reconstruction of Yoshi’s Trike on display which however is only an interpretation. From the color of the skeletal elements on display, it is clear that this portion of the skull has not been found. However, Eofauna did not make a random choice, but it probably used UCMP 128561 as a base, which is precisely that other extremely fragmentary specimen we talked about. This in fact is perfect to complete the puzzle since it was certainly a fully adult animal that lived in the same place and at the same time as Yoshi’s Trike and, ironically, among the few fragments found there is precisely the nasal horn that forms almost a straight angle with the “beak”. We complete the analysis of the head by focusing on the cheeks. They are practically absent. It seems that this is the most followed trend in reconstructions at the moment. At the level of skeletal insertions, nothing tells us that it can be wrong, and also PNSO has adopted the same approach for their latest Triceratops.

The head is connected to the body by an extremely muscular and voluminous neck. In side view, it seems the natural continuation of the head. This perfectly reflects our current knowledge. On the other hand, it is almost obvious that a sufficiently strong neck must support such a heavy skull. Furthermore, bite marks on the back of the fossil collars discovered suggest that this could probably be one of the most palatable parts for the Tyrannosaurus, who ate it precisely for the voluminous musculature present there.

The body is huge, a real fermentation barrel. The shape is correct both in side and top view. The back forms a curve, which has its highest point just before the start of the hind limbs with the part of the sacrum that is not horizontal as in the ornithopods but continues this arched shape until it flows into the tail. From above, on the other hand, you can see how the bust gets way more voluminous until it reaches the end of the chest from where it then narrows to make room for the thighs. Obviously, no skeletal elements are visible and you can barely see where the shoulder blades should be because there is a slight there. At the base of the tail is carved the cloacal opening.

Speaking of the tail this looks short and out of proportion to the rest of the animal, but this is correct. The most derivative ceratopsids were obliged quadrupeds; they did not have weapons of caudal offense like the stegosaurs or the ankylosaurs and did not even have the need to balance very long necks like the sauropods. Consequently, a bit like in mammals, they did not need a long tail which consequently got progressively shorter during their evolutionary history. Perhaps, just to be picky, only the base could have been made slightly thicker.

The limbs were carved following the fossils and tracks of footprints. Ceratopsids with elephant-like legs are often seen, this is absolutely wrong. We have already talked about the posture of the forelimbs, here we will limit ourselves to adding that the proportions of the arm, forearm and leg are respected. The hand is also faithful, only the ends of the five fingers touch the ground and are arranged as if to form a sort of semicircle. The first three are more developed and clawed, the last two decidedly smaller and without nails. The hind limbs, although with different proportions, have a very preserved overall appearance among dinosaurs and Triceratops is no exception. Again, Cryptic is loyal to its fossil counterpart. The sole of the foot is completely different from the footprint left by the hand. There are only four toes, they are all similar in size and they’re all clawed. Furthermore, behind the toes, a cushion of soft tissue meant that when the foot rested on the ground it did not unload the weight only with the tips of the fingers as it did in the hand.

Speech coloring. Eofauna did not want to indulge in the liveries of the two variants. Both Dominant and Crypric are mostly brown with different shades in certain parts of the body. Only the head has more lively and diversified colors. It has been said that the Dominant coloring takes more inspiration from birds, while the Cryptic from reptiles. Furthermore, Eofauna has always reported that, in their headcanon, the male who conquers the harem of females of a pack leader changes color from Cryptic to Dominant, therefore they did not want to propose two profoundly different variants. I personally preferred Cryptic because it dares a little more. Since dinosaurs, in all likelihood, distinguished colors much better than most mammals today, it makes sense that they had more color variety. Not to mention that the adult Triceratops, even more so since they apparently had to live in small flocks, did not have to rely particularly on mimicry to survive. If there was a dinosaur that in that place and at that time could afford the luxury of walking around in a nice lively livery it had to be him. Indeed, many poisonous animals today are showy because they want to get noticed since most of the predators would not dare to approach because of their danger. Therefore, it makes sense to think that adult Triceratops went around with a sort of great danger sign on him that indicated to predators “if you get too close, you come to look for them”.

More specifically, Cryptic has a sort of countershading, body and tail are a darker brown on the back, then switch to a lighter shade on the sides and then an even lighter shade on the belly and throat. A sort of ice cream with three flavors of chocolate, coffee, hazelnut. The transition from one color to another is quite sharp, but there is a small in-between area that makes it a little more gradual. The legs are colored with a not particularly thick shade of light blue that blends in a strangely pleasant way with the underlying brown. A gray-brown wash brings out the geometry of the scales here and on the belly. The nails are all colored.

The highlight is obviously the skull. While the back and edge of the collar are the same browns as the back, and interweaving pattern has been painted on the front, like a sort of irregular web formed by salmon-colored spots and cyan lines. The result is not bad, although personally I would have preferred something more symmetrical and geometric. Horns and beak are completely different, the classic gray and beige used for these keratinous elements. The inner part of the mouth is of nice shiny flesh pink, however, it jars the sharp gap between the front part of the jaw which is the same color as the external portion of the beak, and the pink of the mucous membranes which starts with a straight line just before the tongue. Finally, a good work of precision was done with eyes and teeth well centered and without burrs.

The time has come to take stock. Surely, this from Eofauna is a great product. Its uniqueness means that even if there were other Triceratops in the collection it would not appear as a simple duplicate, indeed for the most hardened it would be nice to put it between a horridus and a prorsus in order to show the variability of this genus over time. Given the size and the pose, it is also perfect to combine with one of the countless Tyrannosaurus on the market. Finally, the plastic material is particularly resistant, even if given the long and protruding horns I would not recommend it in the hand of a small child. Given the abundance of Triceratops models, some might not deem it a must-have, but the quality, the scientific accuracy, and the not reasonable price make it undoubtedly highly recommended. In short, if you are looking for a beautiful three-horned face to put in your collection at a honest price, this could be the Triceratops you were looking for.

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