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Friday, July 6, 2007

Psittacosaurus

Psittacosaurus skeleton.
Psittacosaurus (meaning 'parrot lizard') was a genus of psittacosauridceratopsian dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous Period of what is now Asia, about 130 to 100 million years ago. It is notable for being the most species-rich dinosaur genus; At least eight extinct species are recognized from fossils found in different regions of China and Mongolia, with possible additional species from Thailand and Russia.

All species of Psittacosaurus were gazelle-sized bipedal herbivores characterized by a high, powerful beak on the upper jaw. At least one species had long, quill-like structures on its tail and lower back, possibly serving a display function. Psittacosaurs were extremely early ceratopsians and, while they developed many novel adaptations of their own, they also shared many anatomical features with later ceratopsians, such as Protoceratops and the elephant-sized Triceratops.

Psittacosaurus is not as familiar to the general public as its distant relative Triceratops but it is one of the most completely known dinosaur genera. Fossils of over 150 individuals have been collected so far, including many near-complete skeletons. Most different age classes are represented, from nestling 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 its use as an index fossil for Early Cretaceous sediments of

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