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Psittacosaurus

sih - TAK - oh - saw - rus

Ceratopsia/Psittacosauridae
Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Parrot lizard"
Length: 4 feet (1.25 m)
Diet: Herbivore (Plant-Eater)
Time: Early Cretaceous
Location: Mongolia; China; southern Siberia; Thailand

Psittacosaurus was discovered in Outer Mongolia in 1922, in the early stages of the famous expeditions undertaken by the American Museum of Natural History between 1922 and 1925. Henry Osborn named it for the beak-like appearance of its face. It is known from a number of well-preserved skeletons, which represent about eight different species from Mongolia, southern Siberia, and northern China, as well as from some lower jaw fragments that were discovered in northern Thailand.

Psittacosaurus was one of the earliest dinosaurs to show the typical beaked face of the ceratopsian group. This beak, which was supported by a single median bone-called the "rostral bone-is the one feature that distinguishs the ceratopsians from all other dinosaur groups.

Psittacosaurus was one of the smallest and most primitive of the ceratopsians. It lacked the well-developed frill and horns that were typical of more advanced ceratopsians, yet, along with the hard keratinous beak, it had the characteristic skull shape of a ceratopsian. It also featured, in common with later ceratopsians, the high palate and the sharp, slicing teeth with self-sharpening edges that were well suited to nipping off and shredding hard plant matter.

Psittacosaurus's hindlimbs were longer-although only slightly-than its forelimbs, which suggests that it could have moved about in an upright position for short distances. It may have done do to avoid attacks from predators or to forage in low-hanging tree branches. Some skeletons of Psittacosaurus contain fossils of gastroliths-stomach stones that helped the animal to break down plant matter inside its stomach.

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