I am an ancient one. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, it’s a good question. I guess, in comparison to you, I am very old and I’ve been around for a very long time. You named me and my fellows Triceratops, which means three horned face. And I guess that’s about right.
You, in contrast to me, are a young species. You’ve only been around for a little longer than two hundred and fifty thousand years. I have been around ten times longer, over two million years. It’s not a competition but then again you always talk about how smart you are. You are so successful. Guess what, I was successful too and I died out by accident. Whereas you are probably going to die out on purpose. My habitat was destroyed by an asteroid and you are doing it yourself. You have all that knowledge, all that information at the tips of your fingers but most of you, and especially the ones who can actually do something about it, won’t do anything. No asteroid is headed your way but then again you don’t need one. You are paving your own path towards extinction and most of you look the other way.
I was not very smart during my lifetime, but even I can see that what you are doing is a bit stupid and far from smart. But maybe that’s just who you are as a species. I don’t know. I can’t tell. I have never met you. I died out about sixty-six million years before the first one of you hopped off a tree.
Let me tell you something about how I looked like. Very different from you I can assure you. But of course, we are also sitting on quite different branches of the tree of evolution. I walked on four legs, I was very heavy, about ten tons and I have jaws like a beak, almost like a bird. And while I belonged to the order of the Ornithischians (meaning bird hipped) I must disappoint you. I am not really related to birds. That’s our cousins the Theropod dinosaurs. I know it’s confusing. Why are we the ones who are called bird hipped? We are actually less related to birds than the other family of the dinosaurs who are not bird hipped. But it’s just the way you classified me and my family. I was not there to set it right.
You could say that I don’t really have any living relatives anymore. But that’s not sad. It’s just what it is. Besides, we had a good run. We Ornithischians walked on this green planet for over one hundred and thirty million years. And, sorry not sorry, you will never ever be around that long.
But enough about that. Most of you know me instantly because I look quite special. My most distinctive features made me one of the most recognisable dinosaurs ever, my horns and my shield. Me and my entire family are very proud of horns and a nice big shield. You see, the other day, when I heard that you think we used our horns to defend ourselves from Tyrannosaurus, I really had to laugh. Because we really didn’t. My horns and my shield are way too fragile to battle with a predator like that. No, I used them four courtship and dominance display. Whenever I was, you know, in the mood, I could pump more blood into my shield and due to the structure of my scales, I was able to show off with the most beautiful patterns and colours on my scaly head. And then I would simply reproduce. The most beautiful horns and the prettiest shield would win the day. I think animals, yes, you included, are still similar in those ways. Being beautiful and strong looking has always been important in the game of evolution.
In terms of defending myself I have to disappoint you. I didn’t really. Me and my family shared our habitat with one of the largest predators to ever walk the earth: Tyrannosaurus. I mean, when one of us reached a certain size, a fully grown female or a fully grown male was about eight metres long and no one in their right mind would go after a beast like that. When you reach a certain size, you just look too large to be considered prey. But younger Triceratops had to be careful. They were hunted by Tyrannosaurus. However, my family and me still gave them a hard time. We were strong in numbers. We were a caring species. We liked to take care of our young, raised them, showed them what plants to eat and what other plants to better leave alone.
And this is what I did, what we did, every day for over two million years. And then we died out, killed by a stone from outer space. Considering how I looked like and how you look like it all seems impressive of course. I mean, there is no living creature who looked as extraordinary as I did: A mighty horned reptilian creature in a cretaceous green wild world. And I know for a fact that you are still enchanted by me. You even express it in the only way you can: With money.
I’ve also heard that I am apparently not an ordinary Triceratops. I am very popular! You consider me to be the largest one. I mean, when I was alive, I remember a few friends, who were a bit larger than me, but yes, I was pretty huge. But I am also special because earth preserved me so well for sixty-six million years. You named me ‘Big John’ and sold me for over seven million dollars. That’s a lot of green dollar bills I imagine. It’s hilarious though, I’ve found out, you can’t eat those green bills. I wonder of course what’s the point in them really. But then again, as you like to refer to yourself, I am not as ‘knowing’ as you are. I am a three horned face, an ancient one with little knowledge except for the fact that I died out by accident and you will die out on purpose. So, the joke’s on you, I guess.