Psittacosaurus (/ˌsɪtəkəˈsɔrəs/ sit-ə-kə-sor-əs; "parrot lizard") is a genus of extinct ceratopsian dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of what is now Asia, existing between 126 and 101 million years ago. It is notable for being the most species-rich dinosaur genus. Up to 11 species are known, from across Mongolia, Siberia, China, and possibly Thailand. The species of Psittacosaurus were obligate bipeds at adulthood, with a high skull and a robust beak. One individual was found preserved with long quills on the tail, similar to those of Tianyulong, yet scales of varying sizes and shapes across the rest of the animal. Psittacosaurus probably had complex behaviours, based on the proportions and relative size of the brain. It may have been active for short periods of time during the day and night, and had good smell and well developed vision. It was about 1 to 1.5 meters (3-4.5 feet) long and weighed about 30 kilograms.
Psittacosaurus was one of the earliest ceratopsians, but closer to Triceratops than Yinlong. Once in its own family, Psittacosauridae, with other genera like Hongshanosaurus, it is now considered to be senior synonym of the latter and an early offshoot of the branch that led to more derived forms. The genera closely related to Psittacosaurus are all from Asia, with the exception of Aquilops, from North America. The first species was either P. lujiatunensis or closely related, and it may have given rise to later forms of Psittacosaurus.
Psittacosaurus is one of the most completely known dinosaur genera. Fossils of over 400 individuals have been collected so far, including many complete skeletons. Most different age classes are represented, from hatchling through to adult, which has allowed several detailed studies of Psittacosaurus growth rates and reproductive biology. The abundance of this dinosaur in the fossil record has led to the labeling of Lower Cretaceous sediments of east Asia the Psittacosaurus biochron.
Studies is 2016 show that P. sp. had countershading, with brown on the top half of its body, and orange on the bottom, as seen in the picture above. This is likely present to help the animal camouflage itself in its forest habitat.
History of discovery
In Popular Culture
- Psittacosaurus first appeared in The Rite of Spring from Disney’s Fantasia.
- Psittacosaurus was featured in a Documentary Mammals vs Dinos: The Rise of Mammals.
- Psittacosaurus was seen in the 2014 film Transformers: Age of Extinction.
- Psittacosaurus appears in the video game, The Isle, where it is the weakest herbivore in the game.