Video Shows Most Complete Known Triceratops Skeleton Being Built

A fascinating time-lapse video shows the world's most complete and finely preserved Triceratops skeleton being put together for display at the Melbourne Museum in Australia.

The specimen, dubbed Horridus, was unveiled at the museum on March 12 as part of a new dinosaur exhibition.

The skeleton—named after the scientific name for the iconic species, Triceratops Horridus—stands about 6.6 feet tall, measures roughly 20 feet in length and weighs over a ton.

The animal lived around 67 million years ago during the Cretaceous period in what is now Montana—at a time when the region was home to lush, swampy forests

"It is not unusual for museums to collect dinosaur fossils. It is exceptional, however, for a museum to have a specimen of the remarkable quality and significance of Horridus," Lynley Crosswell, CEO & director of Museums Victoria—the organization that operates the Melbourne Museum—said in a statement.

"We are thrilled to introduce Horridus to the world, and to have this internationally significant Triceratops on permanent display at Melbourne Museum, this will be a major attraction for visitors to our city and state. To stand before something so unlikely as to be almost impossible, is truly awe-inspiring," Crosswell said.

Finding a Complete Skeleton

According to Nick Longrich, a senior lecturer in evolutionary biology at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, Triceratops is one of the most commonly found dinosaurs, with dozens—perhaps hundreds—of skulls and partial skeletons in museums around the world.

But largely complete Triceratops skeletons are actually "surprisingly rare," Longrich told Newsweek.

"The vast majority of Triceratops specimens are just skulls, horns, bits of frill, isolated bones, or teeth, so it's really unusual to get one this complete."

The Horridus specimen is roughly 85 percent complete, containing a total of 266 bones, including the three iconic horns after which the species is named—Triceratops literally means "three-horned face" in Greek.

Longrich said it is not entirely clear why almost complete skeletons are so rare, but the plains of the Serengeti in Africa today may provide a clue.

"Once an animal dies or is killed, it's pretty quickly reduced down to just a few bones or a skull by lions and hyenas and vultures," he said. "So, maybe something similar was happening back in the Cretaceous."

"T. rex has really powerful jaws and the ability to crush bone, so it's probably consuming a lot of these animals—it's common to find T. rex toothmarks on Triceratops bones. That might explain why we often find the skull and little else—the skull is pretty heavily built, and doesn't have a lot of meat on it. Maybe that's all that's left once tyrannosaurs, raptors, and pterosaurs are done picking over a carcass."

Horridus, the world's most complete Triceratops specimen
An image showing Horridus, the world's most complete known Triceratops specimen at the Melbourne Museum in Australia Eugene Hyland/Museums Victoria