Styracosaurus (meaning “spiked lizard” from the Ancient Greek styrax/στύραξ “spike at the butt-end of a spear-shaft” and sauros/σαῦρος “lizard”) was a genus of herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur from the Cretaceous Period (Campanian stage), about 75.5 to 75 million years ago. It had four to six long horns extending from its neck frill, a smaller horn on each of its cheeks, and a single horn protruding from its nose, which may have been up to 60 centimetres (2 ft) long and 15 centimetres (6 in) wide. The function or functions of the horns and frills have been debated for many years.
Styracosaurus was a relatively large dinosaur, reaching lengths of 5.5 metres (18 ft) and weighing nearly 3 tonnes. It stood about 1.8 meters (6 ft) tall. Styracosaurus possessed four short legs and a bulky body. Its tail was rather short. The skull had a beak and shearing cheek teeth arranged in continuous dental batteries, suggesting that the animal sliced up plants. Like other ceratopsians, this dinosaur may have been a herd animal, traveling in large groups, as suggested by bonebeds.
Named by Lawrence Lambe in 1913, Styracosaurus is a member of the Centrosaurinae. One species, S. albertensis, is currently assigned to Styracosaurus. Other species once assigned to the genus have since been reassigned elsewhere.
The first fossil remains of Styracosaurus were collected in Alberta, Canada by C.M. Sternberg (from an area now known as Dinosaur Provincial Park, in a formation now called the Dinosaur Park Formation) and named by Lawrence Lambe in 1913. This quarry was revisited in 1935 by a Royal Ontario Museum crew who found the missing lower jaws and most of the skeleton. These fossils indicate that S. albertensis was around 5.5 to 5.8 meters in length and stood about 1.65 meters high at the hips. An unusual feature of this first skull is that the smallest frill spike on the left side is partially overlapped at its base by the next spike. It appears that the frill suffered a break at this point in life and was shortened by about 6 centimeters (2 in). The normal shape of this area is unknown because the corresponding area of the right side of the frill was not recovered.
Styracosaurus is a member of the Centrosaurinae. Other members of the clade include Centrosaurus (from which the group takes its name), Pachyrhinosaurus, Avaceratops, Einiosaurus, Albertaceratops, Achelousaurus, Brachyceratops, and Monoclonius, although these last two are dubious. Because of the variation between species and even individual specimens of centrosaurines, there has been much debate over which genera and species are valid, particularly whether Centrosaurusand/or Monoclonius are valid genera, undiagnosable, or possibly members of the opposite sex. In 1996, Peter Dodson found enough variation between Centrosaurus, Styracosaurus, and Monoclonius to warrant separate genera, and that Styracosaurusresembled Centrosaurus more closely than either resembled Monoclonius. Dodson also believed one species of Monoclonius, M. nasicornis, may actually have been a female Styracosaurus. However, most other researchers have not accepted Monoclonius nasicornis as a female Styracosaurus, instead regarding it as a synonym of Centrosaurus apertus. While sexual dimorphism has been proposed for an earlier ceratopsian, Protoceratops, there is no firm evidence for sexual dimorphism in any ceratopsid.
Styracosaurus is known from the Dinosaur Park Formation, and was a member of a diverse and well-documented fauna of prehistoric animals that included horned relatives such as Centrosaurus and Chasmosaurus, duckbills such as Prosaurolophus, Lambeosaurus, Gryposaurus, Corythosaurus, and Parasaurolophus, tyrannosaurids Gorgosaurus, Daspletosaurus, and armored Edmontonia and Euoplocephalus.