Deeper into Jeopardy! XXIV: Dinosaurs – $1200

Jeopardy! category: DINOSAURS (21-07-2014)

$1200 clue: Now a term for an ornamental trimming, this bony dinosaur feature acted as a shield; it made the Torosaurus appear bigger to hungry predators

Correct response

The gist: As it turns out, when it comes to dinosaurs, you actually get a whole lot of them. Dinosaurs like Triceratops, Pentaceratops, and the clue’s Torosaurus boasted large neck frills composed of bone, skin, and horns. As all the Ceratopsians (the group that includes the frilled dinosaurs as well as some non-frilled species) were herbivores, the frills were certainly used as defense against large predators, both in combat and in display. But the frills may have had other uses as well. For example, blood flow through the frills may have helped the animals thermoregulate, by pumping warm blood to the surface of the frills and allowing excess heat to dissipate into the air. They could also have acted as signals to potential mates, perhaps even becoming flush and changing colour during mating season to signal an animal’s fitness.

Today, there are two groups of reptiles that have neck frills: the North American horned lizards and the appropriately-named frill-necked lizard of Australia. The latter’s frill, unlike those of the Ceratopsians, is made of cartilage rather than bone, and usually sits retracted against the animal’s neck. When it gets distressed, it’s able to spread out its brightly coloured frill while baring its equally bright maw – which it does both when threatened by predators or competitors, and during courtship.

Triceratops skull, showing its prominent frill

The clue: For the $1200 clue, the writers opted to reference the lesser-known Torosaurus rather than the much better-known Triceratops, although with the show’s visuals Torosaurus should certainly have been enough to understand what they were talking about. They’ve also given an extra hint at the beginning of the clue, in reference to fashion. Either way, I think this is sort of a know-it-or-you-don’t – and on those, you’re almost always better off not guessing, as one contestant did on this one, unfortunately.

In Jeopardy!: The 18 clues involving the word “frill” split almost completely into two (with some, like this one, straddling both) – those about clothes (six) and those about animals (nine). Of the animals, three are about dinosaurs, three about birds, and three about lizards. There are also two clues about “no-frills” Southwest Airlines. And, surprisingly, Triceratops doesn’t show up at all – the two clues that reference specific dinosaurs both opt for Torosaurus instead.

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