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A protoceratopsid is a dinosaur of the family Protoceratopsidae. The name 'protoceratopsid' is derived from Greek for 'first horned face'. They resembled and were closely related to, ceratopsids but were generally smaller and more primitive. Protoceratopsids have so far been found exclusively in the Late Cretaceous of Asia (Nemegt Basin), dating to between about 99.6 and 70.6 MYA.


A typical protoceratopsid is Protoceratops andrewsi.

The taxon Protoceratopsidae was introduced by Walter W. Granger and William King Gregory in May 1923 as a monotypic family for Protoceratops andrewsi. Granger and Gregory recognized Protoceratops' close relationship to other Ceratopsia, but considered it primitive enough to warrant its own family, and perhaps suborder. Protoceratopsidae was later expanded to include all ceratopsians that were too advanced to be psittacosaurids, but too primitive to be ceratopsids. In 1998, Paul Sereno defined Protoceratopsidae as the stem-based clade including "all coronosaurs closer to Protoceratops than to Triceratops." Sereno's definition ensures that Protoceratopsidae is monophyletic, but probably excludes some dinosaurs that have been traditionally thought of as protoceratopsids (for example, Leptoceratops and Montanoceratops). The latter genera are now often classified in a mostly North American family Leptoceratopsidae.

Sereno (2000) included three genera in Protoceratopsidae: Protoceratops, Bagaceratops, and Graciliceratops. Derived characters shared by these dinosaurs include a narrow strap-shaped paroccipital process, a very small occipital condyle, and an upturned dorsal margin of the predentary. In Protoceratops and Bagaceratops (and also in the non-protoceratopsid Leptoceratops), there is a blade-shaped parietal sagittal crest (Sereno 2000: 505). Several other more recently recognized genera may also be protoceratopsids. In 2003, Vladimir Alifanov named, but did not define, a new ceratopsian family Bagaceratopidae to include Bagaceratops, Platyceratops, Lamaceratops and Breviceratops. However, applying Sereno's phylogenetic definition, Alifanov's Bagaceratopidae appears to be a subclade of Protoceratopsidae, and most people agree with this.

They are the only ceratopsians known from Europe, in the form of Ajkaceratops, following Bagaceratopsidae within Protoceratopsidae phylogeny.

In Walking with... Series

Chased by Dinosaurs

The Giant Claw This episode featured Protoceratops, the only protoceratopsid to be featured in any of IP productions up to date. It was depicted as a small dinosaur, about the size of a modern pig, with a belligerent attitude, a social lifestyle, and a snapping beak. Despite all that, Protoceratops was still prey for such carnivores as Velociraptor and Tarbosaurus.

Walking with Dinosaurs: Inside their World

Protoceratops was one of the featured dinosaurs in this app.