2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Dinosaurs


Conservation status
Extinct (fossil)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Superorder: Dinosauria
Order: Ornithischia
Suborder: Marginocephalia
Infraorder: Ceratopsia
Family: Ceratopsidae
Genus: Monoclonius
Cope ( 1876)

See text.

Monoclonius (meaning "single stem"; referring to the teeth, which have a single root) Cope 1876 was a ceratopsian dinosaur from the Judith River Formation of Late Cretaceous Montana and Canada. It is often confused with Centrosaurus, a similar species of ceratopsian (some think the two may even be the same, of a different age or sex).


Monoclonius was Edward Drinker Cope's third named ceratopsian (after Agathaumas and Polyonax) and the only one of the three that has any validity. The type specimen was found in the summer of 1876 in Montana, only about 100 miles from the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn that June. Although it was not an articulated skeleton, Cope recovered most of the animal (only the feet were entirely missing), including skull material and the base part of a long nasal horn. Since the ceratopsians were still unknown, Cope was uncertain about much of the skull material, not recognizing the horn core as being such.

After O. C. Marsh's description of Triceratops in 1889, Cope reexamined his Monoclonius specimen and realized what it and Agathaumas were. In the same paper that Cope examined M. crassus, he also named three more Monoclonius species. He described Monoclonius as having a large nasal horn and two smaller horns over the eyes and a large frill ( parietal) with broad openings.

Later, John Bell Hatcher (one of Marsh's workers and therefore in the ' Yale Camp' of the Bone Wars), in continuing Marsh's monograph on the Ceratopsidae, derided Cope's collecting methods. Cope rarely identified specimens in the field with precise locations and often ended up describing composites, rather than single individuals. Hatcher reexamined the type specimen of M. crassus and the only skull remains that he could positively assign to this specimen was the left half of the parietal (dorsal part of the neck frill). He could not assign any of the several squamosals (side of the frill) in the collection to the type specimen and did not believe that Cope's orbital horn ( catalogued under a different number) belonged to it.

Centrosaurus intrudes

In the years after Cope's 1889 paper, it appears that there was a tendency to describe everything from the Judith River beds as Monoclonius. The first dinosaur species described from Canada were ceratopsians in 1902 by Lawrence Lambe, including 3 new species of Monoclonius based on fragmentary skulls.

In 1904, Lambe described Centrosaurus, based on a second specimen (a skull in better condition than the first) that he had attributed to Monoclonius dawsoni in 1902. With newer specimens collected by Charles H. Sternberg, it became clear that Centrosaurus was distinctly separate from Monoclonius, at least to Lambe. In a 1914 paper, Barnum Brown reviewed Monoclonius and Centrosaurus, dismissing most of Cope's species, leaving only M. crassus. Comparing Monoclonius to Centrosaurus, he determined that the M. crassus specimen had been that of an old animal and damaged by erosion and that the two were synonymous. In 1915, Lambe answered Brown in another paper (this is the review of Ceratopsia in which Lambe established three families), transferring M. dawsoni to Brachyceratops and M. sphenocerus to Styracosaurus. This left M. crassus, which he considered non-diagnostic, largely due to its damage and the lack of a nasal horn. Lambe ended the paper by attributing Brown's M. flexus to Centrosaurus apertus (the type species of Centrosaurus). The next round fell to Brown in a paper on Albertan centrosaurines, which, for the first time, analyzed a complete ceratopsian skeleton, which he named Monoclonius nasicornis (he contributed to the confusion even more by describing yet another species, M. cutleri).

The matter bounced back and forth, over the next few years, until Richard Swann Lull published his "Revision of Ceratopsia", in 1933. Although, unlike the beautifully illustrated 1907 monograph, it has relatively few illustrations, it is known for the attempt to identify and locate all ceratopsian specimens then known. Lull described another specimen from Alberta (YPM 2015; Monoclonius (Centrosaurus) flexus) and decided that Centrosaurus was a junior synonym of Monoclonius, perhaps distinct enough to deserve subgeneric rank. (This specimen is exhibited at Yale's Peabody Museum in an unusual way: the left half shows the skeleton, but the right side is a reconstruction of the living animal.) Charles M. Sternberg, son of the above, in 1940 firmly established the existence of Monoclonius-type forms in Alberta (no further specimens have come from Montana since 1876) and showed that differences justified the separation of the two genera. Monoclonius-types are rarer and found in earlier horizons than Centrosaurus-types, seemingly indicating that the one is probably ancestral to the other.


Monoclonius belonged to Centrosaurinae subfamiliy within the Ceratopsia (the name is Greek for "horned face"), a group of herbivorous dinosaurs with parrot-like beaks which thrived in North America and Asia during the Cretaceous Period, which ended roughly 65 million years ago. All ceratopsians became extinct at the end of this era.



  • Monoclonius crassus Cope 1876 [AMNH 3998]

Other Species:

  • M. albertensis (Lambe, 1913/Leahy, 1987); included with Styracosaurus albertensis.
  • M. apertus (Lambe, 1904/Kuhn, 1964); included with Centrosaurus apertus.
  • M. belli (Lambe, 1902); included with Chasmosaurus belli.
  • M. canadensis (Lambe, 1902); included with Chasmosaurus canadensis.
  • M. cutleri (Brown, 1917); back half of skelton with some skull fragments, included with Centrosaurus apertus.
  • M. dawsoni (Lambe, 1902; including Brachyceratops dawsoni and Centrosaurus dawsoni), included with Centrosaurus apertus.
  • M. fissus Cope, 1889; isolated pterygoid (Cope identified it as a squamosal); nomen nudum .
  • M. flexus (Brown, 1914); included with Centrosaurus apertus.
  • M. longirostris (Sternberg, 1940/Kuhn, 1964); included with Centrosaurus apertus.
  • M. lowei (Sternberg, 1940); a large, somewhat flattened, skull, apparently that of a subadult (sutures are not completely closed). Sternberg pointed out the resemblances of this specimen to Brachyceratops
  • M. montanensis (Gilmore, 1914); included with Brachyceratops montanensis.
  • M. nasicornis (Brown, 1917); included part with Centrosaurus apertus and part with Styracosaurus albertensis (Dodson believes this is actually the female of Styracosaurus)
  • M. recurvicornis Cope, 1889; braincase, 3 horns and isolated fragments; nomen nudum included with Ceratops recurvicornis.
  • M. sphenoceras Cope, 1890; nasal horn and premaxilla; nomen nudum including Agathaumas sphenoceras, A. monoclonius and Styracosaurus sphenoceras).

Diet & Ecology

Monoclonius, like all Ceratopsians, was a herbivore. During the Cretaceous, flowering plants were "geographically limited on the landscape", so it is likely that this dinosaur fed on the predominant plants of the era: ferns, cycads and conifers. It would have used its sharp Ceratopsian beak to bite off the leaves or needles.

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