Why Did Cetrosaurus' have a Neck Shield?

Ceratopsian neck shields—backwards protrusions of skull bones—are thought to have several functions. The shields are usually lined with bony spikes, which would cut into any predator that tried to attack the ceratopsian’s neck. Often, the shields have additional spikes or ridges that project or curl in a way that offers no clear defensive benefit. Such shield ornamentations are likely display structures for attracting mates, like the crests of many birds and the antlers of deer and moose. Particular patterns of shield ornamentations are specific to particular ceratopsian species. It has been suggested that the shields also served as natural ID badges that helped a ceratopsian quickly recognize members of its own species.


Scientists from every corner of the globe come to the University of Alberta to study dinosaurs in the Laboratory for Vertebrate Paleontology. Regularly featured in the international science and mainstream news, University of Alberta researchers and students continue to be at the forefront of the discipline.

Photo Credit:

Name: Centrosaurus
Pronunciation: SEN-tro-SAWR-us
Meaning: Pointed lizard
Size: 6 metres long 
Age: Late Cretaceous, 77-75 million years ago
Range: Western North America
Habitat: Swamps and coastal marshlands

ROM 767

Collected in Alberta 1919 by William Arthur Parks


Fast Facts: 

  • Alberta’s dinosaurs hold clues to global understanding of dinosaur evolution and extinction and can provide parallels with the frailty of our present environment. 
  • Over 50,000 specimens in the Collection.