Sinoceratops zhuchengensis (S/F)

Sinoceratops is a genus of medium-sized ceratopsid dinosaur in the subfamily Centrosaurinae. Its genus name means “Chinese horned face,” referring to the country its remains were first discovered in; it was the first ceratopsid discovered in China, and potentially the first ceratopsid discovered in Asia (more primitive ceratopsians had previously been discovered, though). There is only one known species so far, Sinoceratops zhuchengensis; the specific epithet refers to Zhucheng, the city in the Shandong province where it was first found. This dinosaur lived during the late Cretaceous period, about 73.5 million years ago.

This dinosaur, one of the largest centrosaurines, was first discovered in the Xingezhuang Formation in the Shandong province of China in the summer of 2008. The first remains found were a partial skull including the braincase. Since its initial discovery, two more fossils have been discovered.

It was described and named by paleontologist Xu Xing and associates in 2010, and assigned its current name based on the locality of its discovery. The species name simultaneously honors the city of Zhucheng for financing the research that led to Sinoceratops being found.

This was one of the last species to be brought back from extinction by International Genetic Technologies for Jurassic World before the park closed in late 2015. At the time the park was shut down, Sinoceratops had not yet been cleared for public exhibition and was not widely known to have been cloned to people other than park employees.

Description

Sinoceratops is one of the more primitive members of the subfamily Centrosaurinae. It grows to lengths of 26.57 feet (8.1 meters) in captivity, while fossil specimens are a bit smaller at 23 feet (7 meters) instead. Adults can weigh between 2.2 and 2.5 U.S. short tons (1,995.81 and 2,267.96 kilograms). The most striking feature, as with most ceratopsians, is the large neck frill which extends from the back and sides of the skull. This is among the largest of centrosaurine skulls, with fossils reaching lengths of 5.9 feet (180 centimeters) long; since InGen specimens grow larger than their ancestors, their skull sizes are similarly larger.

The frill is markedly different than those of other ceratopsians due to the presence of naked fenestrae. In most of its relatives, these holes in the frill (which serve to make the frill lighter) are covered with skin, giving the frill the appearance of being solid. It is unknown why InGen’s Sinoceratops have uncovered holes, as they serve no obvious purpose. Since all specimens have them, it is probably not pathological, though it may be a genetic mutation created during the de-extinction process. In any case, the frill is formed from the outer squamosal and inner parietal bones, expanding to give the dinosaur an intimidating profile when viewed from the front. The edge of the frill is decorated with hornlets and other bony processes, which are collectively termed epoccipitals. There are eleven on the combined parietals, the largest and innermost of which are strongly curved forward to give the dinosaur’s head a crowned appearance. These are followed by two small knob-like epoccipitals on either side of the head, and then a pair of hornlets on the squamosal bones. Each squamosal has a further three knobs followed by one more hornlet. Sinoceratops also has one epijugal (cheek horn) on either side. The largest feature, however, is the nasal horn, a conical implement located on the snout just above the beaked mouth. Overall its skull is wedge-shaped and narrows toward the beak, and its skull appears proportionally larger than the fossil version’s. The horn and epoccipitals are sheathed in keratin, making them appear similar to the horns of animals such as the rhinoceros. It also has epoccipitals on the midline of its parietals, similar to Nasutoceratops; they are fewer, with only two of them, but they are larger in size and more conical.

Its eyes are average in size for a ceratopsian, with the same typical rounded birdlike pupils of many of its relatives. The sclerae are usually a dark brown or amber color. In Sinoceratops the tongue is flatter than that of Triceratops, but is about the same length, and can be extended out of the mouth. Its tongue is pinkish in color. The beak is toothless, but there are many teeth in the rear of the mouth.

The post-cranial body is similar to that of other ceratopsians, though InGen’s specimens do look different from those known from fossils. The body is stocky, with strong legs and a powerful torso; it has a relatively nondescript tail used more for balance than anything else. Its bodily proportions are somewhat similar to the modern rhinoceros, instead of fossil ceratopsians, and the feet are rather elephantine. In fossils, ceratopsian feet have distinct hoofed toes, while InGen ceratopsians have less distinct toes with rounded nails. The hind feet of Sinoceratops have four toes, the innermost of which is a vestigial dewclaw, while the front feet have five toes, the outermost of which is the dewclaw.

Like most ceratopsians, Sinoceratops is a poor swimmer.

As with nearly all InGen dinosaurs, the skin is scaly; it is debatable whether it would have originally had quills. The coloration is more vibrant than many of the other ceratopsians. Most Sinoceratops are green in color, with some showing a yellow or brown skin tone, while the underbelly is countershaded in yellowish beige. Some light-colored striping may be present on the back. The face is its most colorful feature, much like Nasutoceratops, and is probably for display purposes. On the sides of its face it has sandy-colored patches which begin below the eyes. These may extend all the way to the beak, or form a stripe only below and above the eye in a kind of chinstrap pattern.

It also has paired eyespots on its frill, usually numbering four. Two are nearly always located near the fenestrae, with the outermost ring encompassing the fenestra and the remainder located just beneath. This is usually the more elaborate pair of eyespots, with four or five concentric rings of alternating color. The secondary eyespot is not present in all Sinoceratops and is located near the ear or cheek on the lower side of the frill. These are less detailed eyespots, with often just two or three rings. The color of the eyespots alternates between a yellowish color and the same base color as the rest of the upper body, usually meaning green, grayish, or brown. It is common for a red or blue highlight to rim some of the eyespots. Smaller spot patterns may be present outside of the eyespots, and some Sinoceratops have asymmetrical color patterning on the face. Darker-colored leathery skin may surround the eyes of some animals.

Growth
Herd of Sinoceratops including a subadult, Isla Nublar (12/23/2015)

Nothing is currently known about the growth patterns of Sinoceratops. In other ceratopsians, the horns start out smaller, as do the epoccipitals. The head is usually proportionally larger and the tail shorter. This is probably the case in Sinoceratops.

It is not known how long it naturally takes to mature because all known specimens thus far were cloned and given growth-boosting supplements by InGen. With these boosters, they would reach full size in a matter of months. By 2015, shortly after the first Sinoceratops were cloned, InGen had created growth-boosters that could yield near-adult animals in less than a month.

Sexual Dimorphism

While varying color patterns are known among individual Sinoceratops, it is currently unknown how much of this is due to individualistic variability and how much can be attributed to sexual dimorphism.

Habitat
Preferred Habitat

This dinosaur’s habitat needs are less known, since it was one of the last creatures to be brought back from extinction before Jurassic World closed in 2015. However, it can generally be observed in grassland environments with readily available sources of water and numerous other animal species present. It prefers habitats with forests nearby, and will wander into forested environments for food and shelter.

In the game Jurassic World: Evolution, it requires 8,300 square meters of grassland and 3,400 square meters of forest in its territory to be comfortable.

Isla Nublar

The earliest known Sinoceratops to be hatched in the modern age, a female, came into the world on Isla Nublar. Since she was said to be four years old as of May 15, 2018, she would have hatched sometime between May 16, 2013 and May 15, 2014. While these dinosaurs were intended to be exhibited in Jurassic World, probably in the Gyrosphere attraction, they were maintained in Sector 5 for the time being. The public did not know about their existence yet.

Example of a Sinoceratops with brown and blue coloration and chinstrap pattern

As of December 2015, there were at least thirteen adult Sinoceratops living as members of Herd M, the main research herd in Sector 5. These did not represent the entire Sinoceratops population at the time, since there was also at least one subadult (seen some time later). Along with the other dinosaurs, the Sinoceratops spent their days on the grazing grounds near Camp Cretaceous, and stayed overnight in designated nighttime enclosures. At least one of the females was possibly named Perry, though this name has not been used in the film canon proper yet.

On December 22, 2015, Jurassic World experienced a serious breach of security resulting in the park being evacuated and permanently closed. The Sinoceratops were now free to roam wherever they chose; while some migrated into the central valley area of the island, most appear to have remained in the north. Herds were known to travel between the former Gyrosphere Valley area, a northern watering hole, and the grasslands where they had grazed during park operations. One, an adult female later nicknamed Maria, was being held in the Sector 4 veterinary clinic for an unknown health condition at the time the park closed; on December 24 she was released from the clinic by park visitors who had been left behind by accident. She migrated north, probably joining Herd M.

One of the adults was killed by poachers sometime before January 13, 2016; this is the first known example of de-extinct animal poaching to occur after the closure of Jurassic World.

By 2018, this species appeared limited to the northern half of Isla Nublar. Data suggested that some might venture as far as the central and eastern regions of the island, but in-depth surveys were not conducted at that time. Volcanic activity originating from Mount Sibo threatened the population between 2017 and 2018, with ashfall, loss of plant life, and toxic outgassing all being threats to Isla Nublar’s dinosaurs. On June 23, 2018, the volcano violently erupted, devastating most of the island. Eight adult Sinoceratops were confirmed on the island on that day; one was sighted to the southwest of Mount Sibo, while four were sighted to the east. Three had already been captured by a mercenary group led by Ken Wheatley and were transported off the island via the S.S. Arcadia during the eruption.

Due to extensive loss of habitat, it is probable that Sinoceratops has become extinct on Isla Nublar.

Isla Sorna

There is currently no evidence that InGen ever introduced Sinoceratops to Isla Sorna. The island was still under lease to Masrani Global Corporation, InGen’s holding company, but had supposedly been abandoned in the early twenty-first century.

Other

At least three adult Sinoceratops were removed from Isla Nublar on June 23, 2018 and were delivered to the Lockwood estate near Orick, California in the night of June 24. They were intended to be sold at auction by Eli Mills in order to finance Henry Wu‘s research, but none are confirmed to have been successfully sold. At about the halfway point, the auction was disrupted by animal rights activists from the Dinosaur Protection Group, and during the struggle a gas explosion caused hydrogen cyanide to leak into the sub-basement where the dinosaurs were being kept. In order to save them from being poisoned to death, they were released by Maisie Lockwood.

The exact locations of the Sinoceratops since then are not known, though they are presumed to be living somewhere in western North America.

Behavior and Ecology
Activity Patterns

Sinoceratops is diurnal, meaning it is active during the daytime. Further observation is necessary to confirm whether it is truly diurnal or if it is actually cathermal, meaning it is active for periods of time throughout the day and rests in between. Its relative Triceratops is known to be cathermal, avoiding the heat of midday.

Diet and Feeding Behavior

Like other ceratopsians, Sinoceratops is herbivorous. It uses its beak to crop off parts of plants, then crushes them using its teeth. Because of its build, it can feed only on lower-growing plant life within its reach; it is too heavy to stand on its hind legs and feed from taller shrubs and trees. However, its strength and armored head may allow it to push less sturdy tall plants over, allowing it to reach the leaves. It will eat vegetables such as lettuce in captivity.

Juveniles that are still growing are actually omnivorous. Along with eating meat, they will practice osteophagy, or the eating of bones. Scavenging the meat and bones from animal carcasses supplies them with calcium and protein to fuel their developing bodies.

According to the game Jurassic World: Evolution, the preferred food of Sinoceratops is palm foliage; it also enjoys horsetails and rotting wood. However, it is unable to digest pawpaws, mosses, and cycads and will be harmed by consuming these plants.

Social Behavior

Sinoceratops is among the most social of the ceratopsians, forming sizable herds and bonding strongly with one another. They are also more skittish than their relatives and may flee from sudden surprises; unfortunately this means that they may stray from their herds, which can lead to the lone animal becoming distressed. A prompt return to its social group is essential to the animal’s emotional and psychological well-being.

In addition to socializing with its own kind, Sinoceratops is unusual in that it will form equally strong social bonds with members of other species. These can be other herbivorous dinosaurs, but may be animals as different from itself as humans. It will form fast friendships with other animals based around simple social rituals that provide emotional comfort, such as gentle non-threatening physical contact and food provision. It is likely that Sinoceratops socialize with one another in similar ways, and that simply by mimicking the friendly behaviors they exhibit with each other, one can integrate into their social structure.

Jurassic World: Evolution portrays this dinosaur as living in pairs or in groups of up to seven. Larger herds are known from the film canon proper.

Reproduction

Not much is known about the reproductive cycle of Sinoceratops because this species was among the last to be cloned at Jurassic World and was never shown to the public. However, reproduction in other ceratopsians is well-known. Mating is accomplished with a cloaca, similar to modern birds, and eggs are laid in ground nests some time afterward. Triceratops eggs are round, whitish, and roughly the size of a cantaloupe, and the eggs of Sinoceratops may be similar. In dinosaurs of about this size, eggs incubate for between six months and a year.

When they hatch, the juveniles likely imprint on nearby adults who act as parental figures. Adults of other ceratopsians such as Triceratops and Nasutoceratops are highly protective of their offspring, with both the male and female protecting them through adolescence and into young adulthood.

Communication

The vocalizations of Sinoceratops have not been studied extensively, but it communicates mainly using a variety of snorts and grunts which express its mood. Body language is also important, as it is in all ceratopsians; pawing at the ground is a sign of aggression, for example, and tossing the head can be used as another warning sign. In a social species like Sinoceratops, these signals can be used not only to challenge other members of their own species for dominance but to rally the herd to fend off a predator. Friendlier interactions include nudging with the beak and licking with the tongue, along with other simple physical-touch gestures. The distinctive, unique head ornamentation of this species helps it recognize its own kind and is used in many of the body movements.

Sinoceratops often forms interspecies relationships. Here an adult female assumes a protective stance over a vulnerable human.

Interestingly, Sinoceratops has also been known to emit calls that sound very similar to those of other herbivorous dinosaurs, particularly marginocephalians such as ceratopsians and pachycephalosaurs. This may be intentional mimicry; since Sinoceratops commonly associate with other animals, they may learn to mimic their calls. Doing so would help them establish these interspecies bonds.

Ecological Interactions

As mentioned above, the Sinoceratops does not only form herds with its own kind; it is highly social with other species as well and commonly associates with them. It has been known to herd with fellow ceratopsian Triceratops, a more aggressive and territorial creature than itself which could lend the mild-mannered Sinoceratops some protection. Sinoceratops has been heard mimicking the sounds of the equally territorial Pachycephalosaurus, suggesting that it may frequently associate with this dinosaur as well.

Herd of Sinoceratops accompanied by Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus, and Parasaurolophus

Other herbivores it herds with include the gigantic sauropods Apatosaurus and Brachiosaurus, the hadrosaur Parasaurolophus, and the defensive armored dinosaurs StegosaurusPeloroplities, and Ankylosaurus. The smaller omnivore Gallimimus lived in the same area as Sinoceratops on Isla Nublar, but their relationship is less well understood.

It is known to be preyed upon by Carnotaurus, a fast and aggressive carnivore known for its opportunistic hunting behaviors. Other predators known to live in the same areas include TeratophoneusCeratosaurus, Allosaurus, Baryonyx, and the huge Tyrannosaurus, which could have potentially threatened a Sinoceratops. The pterosaur Pteranodon is also often seen in areas that this ceratopsian inhabits; while a Pteranodon would be of little concern to an adult, they are known to prey on juvenile dinosaurs and have been seen attacking young Triceratops. Therefore, these pterosaurs could probably threaten young Sinoceratops. Of less concern would be the very small theropod Compsognathus, which would only be a danger to the smallest juveniles. Only one Velociraptor is confirmed to have inhabited Isla Nublar after 2016, so it was probably not a major threat to adult Sinoceratops either.

Carnotaurus attempting to prey on a Sinoceratops, Isla Nublar (6/23/2018)

The horns and armored frill of this dinosaur are its main defenses, along with its bulk. It will try to avoid direct combat if possible, but when forced to fight, it will ram enemies to knock them over. Its horn is a dangerous weapon; many are seen with chipped horns, suggesting that they commonly use them to attack foes. While the horn could be used to stab an enemy, it is more often used to give a sidelong blow to topple a target. The Sinoceratops is more concerned with escaping its foe than killing it, and so will flee at the first safe opportunity to do so.

Like all herbivores, Sinoceratops affects its environment by feeding on plant life. It mainly eats low-growing plants that live on grasslands, in marshes, and at the edges of forests. By feeding on these plants, it shapes its ecosystem; this dinosaur is often found on grasslands and by eating the larger plants it encourages the growth of grasses. As a result, it can help to create the environment it prefers in its habitat by eating or crushing other types of plants.

It can be affected by parasites and diseases. According to Jurassic World: Evolution, it is particularly susceptible to hookworm infections, though it is not known to be impacted by Campylobacter at all. Many dinosaurs were bitten by mosquitoes in prehistory; while modern mosquitoes are not evolved to bite dinosaurs, they may still be capable of it.

Cultural Significance
Symbolism

Since it is a relatively obscure species, Sinoceratops zhuchengensis is not commonly featured in art or culture. However, as the first ceratopsid discovered in China, it is a source of pride for its country of origin as well as the city of Zhucheng which financed the research that led to its discovery.

According to Universal Studios, Sinoceratops is the dinosaur of the Pisces astrological sign (February 19 – March 10). In a non-canon advertisement promoting Wild Aid, a Sinoceratops named Perry appeared alongside Claire Dearing to support rhinoceros conservation.

In Captivity

This is one of the friendlier ceratopsians, but while it is not as aggressive as Triceratops, it comes with its own set of challenges. It needs company; this is a naturally social creature and will become stressed if separated from its herd. Fortunately, the nature of this dinosaur is to form fast friendships, and it can be calmed by the presence of other animals along with its own kind. It is advisable to keep it in herds of other Sinoceratops as well as other large, herbivorous creatures.

Due to the time it was created, this dinosaur was never successfully integrated into Jurassic World, but was probably intended for the Gyrosphere attraction. It prefers grasslands, making Gyrosphere Valley an ideal habitat. During park operations, it was kept in grassland areas of Sector 5 along with herds of other dinosaurs.

It is actually fairly easy for a human to befriend a Sinoceratops simply by giving it affection; this may be as easy as providing food by hand. As a herbivore, it eats plant matter; while it will forage for food in its habitat, it is also recommended to feed it to ensure it is getting all of the nutrients it needs in its diet. Some vegetables such as lettuce will also help provide it with water to keep it hydrated, and is useful for forming bonds between animal and keeper. It is also worth noting that the juveniles need additional calcium and protein while they grow; in nature, they will chew on bones and scavenge meat from carcasses. This makes juvenile Sinoceratops an efficient way to dispose of the remains of deceased animals, though care should be taken to provide only quality meat free of harmful microorganisms and other parasites.

Science

Sinoceratops was the first ceratopsid to be discovered in China, and potentially the first ceratopsid to be discovered in Asia (with the possible exception of Turanoceratops, whose taxonomic placement within Ceratopsia is somewhat debated). All ceratopsids before this had been discovered in North America, making Sinoceratops a novel look into the evolution of these dinosaurs.

Since its de-extinction in the mid-2010s, it has also provided new insights into ceratopsid behavior, since before this the only well-known example was Triceratops. The de-extinction of Sinoceratops has expanded our understanding of just how diverse ceratopsid behavior patterns are, which has benefited not only de-extinction researchers but also traditional paleontologists. Before it was known to the public, Sinoceratops bred by InGen had already informed scientists about the behaviors the fossil animal probably exhibited, which resulted in new scientific publications by 2015.

Politics

Like the other Isla Nublar animals, Sinoceratops is involved in the ongoing de-extinct animal rights debate. Its existence first became known to the public as a direct result of the Mount Sibo controversy in 2018, when the volcanic eruption threatened to drive Sinoceratops and ther other dinosaurs into extinction. It was featured on the Dinosaur Protection Group‘s website as an adoptable dinosaur (particularly one of the older Sinoceratops, a four-year-old individual).

This dinosaur was illegally removed from Isla Nublar along with many other species and became further embroiled in debate after being released into the Pacific Northwest.

Resources

Sinoceratops possesses unique biopharmaceutical properties, as do all de-extinct animals, and was targeted in 2018 to be sold on the black market for this reason. The sale was intended by Eli Mills to finance Henry Wu‘s research. However, none are known to have been successfully sold.

This dinosaur had also been targeted by poachers as early as January 2016, less than a month after the closure of Jurassic World. At least one adult was killed by the poachers Mitch and Tiff, who removed and treated the head to use as a wall-mounted display.

In captivity, the osteophagous and scavenging habits of juvenile Sinoceratops are useful for ecological cleanup purposes, and their dung can be used as fertilizer. Their success as a tourist draw is so far untested, since they were never successfully incorporated into Jurassic World’s attractions. However, their unique coloration, unusual appearance, and friendly behavior would all potentially make them appealing, and they would provide an interesting contrast to the often overwhelmingly North American cast of de-extinct animals usually displayed for the public.

Safety

Despite its friendly reputation, Sinoceratops is still a large and potentially dangerous animal and should be treated with caution during interactions. Do not startle or crowd it, and approach slowly from the front so that it can see you. They can be pacified by feeding them, but this is not recommended as a go-to solution as it could cause them to associate humans with food. Generally, only their handlers should feed them. It is also useful to speak to the dinosaur as you approach, to better ensure it knows you are there; if taken by surprise it will usually try to flee rather than fight, but this can still make it dangerous to anyone in the way.

The strength of Sinoceratops should not be underestimated; it is fully capable of tossing even large animals in combat.

If attacked by a Sinoceratops, or more likely caught in front of one that is stampeding, the best option is to find high shelter such as a boulder or large tree. They cannot climb, so getting out of their reach can save your life. Taking cover inside a vehicle may also help, but they are large and strong enough to tip over most vehicles: you may still sustain injury, and smaller vehicles can be crushed. Still, you are better off inside than exposed. If there is no immediate shelter, the best thing to do is get out of the way. Making a sharp turn and diving out of the way is a good strategy, since this is a bulky animal and cannot change direction quickly. Once you have gotten out of its path, attempt to look as non-threatening as possible, or hide if there is cover nearby.

Realistically, it is more likely that you will encounter a frightened Sinoceratops than an aggressive one. Unfamiliar sounds and sights may startle it and cause it to flee, which may result in it getting separated from its herd and further increase its stress. If you do encounter a lone Sinoceratops, it may be tempting to try and guide it back toward its herd, but if done improperly this can do more harm than good. If it gets crowded while panicked, it may respond as though it is being hunted. Only experienced animal handlers, preferably those who have worked with large herbivores, should try to calm a frightened Sinoceratops. If handlers with dinosaur experience are unavailable, the best alternatives are handlers familiar with bovids.

Behind the Scenes
Mislabeled Pachyrhinosaurus toy

This dinosaur’s role was originally intended to be filled by Pachyrhinosaurus, which appears in some storyboards of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The design of Pachyrhinosaurus was originally similar to what is known from fossils, with a large nasal boss; however it was later changed to feature a tall conical horn. Paleontologists had once suggested that the nasal boss of Pachyrhinosaurus was a pathological feature rather than its natural appearance, and that it might have had a nasal horn when healthy, but later discoveries proved that the boss is a natural feature. The reconstruction of a horned Pachyrhinosaurus for Fallen Kingdom was therefore based on long-outdated ideas. When the first trailer for the film was released, viewers commented that the Pachyrhinosaurus was inaccurate and more closely resembled a Sinoceratops, and the official name was changed shortly afterward.

Unfortunately, the change was made too late for most of the tie-in materials to adjust. This resulted in many Sinoceratops toys being labeled “Pachyrhinosaurus,” and vice versa. Some descriptions of the dinosaur (such as the one in the Jurassic World Employee Handbook) got its name correct, but described it as having a nasal boss rather than a horn.

Replacing a North American ceratopsid with a Chinese one led to a number of online conspiracy theories regarding Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Most of them suggested that the change was an effort to attract more Chinese moviegoers, with more extreme conspiracy theories claiming that this direction choice was directly due to pressure from the Communist Party of China. Realistically, though, most species featured in the Jurassic Park franchise are still North American, and the Asian genus Velociraptor already holds a prominent role in virtually every installment. Within the context of the films’ universe, it is probable that InGen would have eventually sourced more amber and fossils from outside North America as Jurassic World grew.

Battle-scarred Sinoceratops model by Juma Jurabaev. In this incarnation, only one hole appears in the frill, and it is a wound rather than a natural feature.

The holes in the frill of Sinoceratops also changed throughout production. Originally, only one dinosaur was intended to have a single hole in its frill, caused by a tear in its skin. This appears to have been a reference to the 2013 BBC film Walking with Dinosaurs (not the 1999 television series of the same name), in which a Pachyrhinosaurus character has a hole in his frill due to a wound sustained during infancy. Later in production, the Sinoceratops in Fallen Kingdom was changed to have two holes in its frill, and for this to be a natural feature present in all of them. The reason for this, rather than simply eliminating the holes, is not known.

Notable Individuals

Maria – female bred for Jurassic World, had unknown health condition

Perry – possibly non-canon individual featured in Wild Aid commercial