What Scientists Think This Hole Found In A Triceratops Really Means

The frills found on a Triceratops' skull have a tendency to sport various holes and other divots, and scientists have spent years trying to figure out what exactly caused them. The more prominent theories involving these holes include damage that happened during fights with other triceratops, defensive scars, or possibly just something that happened with age.

A recent study carried out by experts with Zoic and the University of Chieti-Pescara in Italy focused specifically on one such hole found in the frill of a fossilized Triceratops nicknamed "Big John." The research, which was published in Scientific Reports on April 7, doesn't shed light on these marks — called "fenestrae" — in general, but does reveal some interesting details about Big John.

While Big John's puncture was most likely caused by a fight with another Triceratops given the location of the damage and its somewhat oblong shape, the most exciting thing for scientists is what seems to have come after the initial injury.

Why this is different

By studying a piece of the bone surrounding Big John's puncture, researchers found what looks like evidence of the bone having healed itself. An accurate timeframe of the wound and the healing process has been tricky to pinpoint due to the fossil being tens of millions of years old, but by comparing the apparent healing progress with what we know about more modern animals, the experts estimate Big John must have died roughly six months or more after the fight.

What's more, the nature of the wound was healing doesn't seem to match with what scientists had previously seen in other dinosaurs. Rather, Big John's frill appears to have healed in a manner more closely resembling human and other mammalian injuries.

The study so far has only utilized a small bone fragment from Big John's remains, as the full skeleton has since been sold at auction, according to ScienceNews. In order to learn more and possibly find out if Big John is an anomaly or if there's more to the way dinosaurs healed than first believed, a more thorough examination is necessary.