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Saurolophus

SAW - roh - LOW - fus

Ornithopoda/Hadrosauridae
Tuomas Koivurinne. Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Ridged lizard"
Length: 42 feet (13 m)
Diet: Herbivore (Plant-Eater)
Time: Late Cretaceous
Location: Alberta, Canada; Mongolia

The most distinctive feature of Saurolophus-the one that gives this dinosaur its name-was the sharp, pointed ridge of bone that projected from the top of its head. This large hadrosaur is now known from several well-preserved, complete skeletons. The first species to be discovered, Saurolophus osborni, was named by Barnum Brown in 1921. It was based on a complete skeleton and additional skull material collected from the Horseshoe Canyon Formation of southern Alberta, Canada. A second species, S. angustirostris, was named in 1952 by the Russian paleontologist A. Rozhdestvensky. This species, which was the larger of the two, and which also had a larger crest, is one of the most common dinosaurs to be found in the latest Cretaceous beds of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

Some specimens of Saurolophus are so well preserved that they show skin impressions. From these we can tell that Saurolophus had leathery, fine-scaled skin. Except for some minor differences in the overall size and in the shape and height of the crest, the two species of Saurolophus are almost identical. This strongly suggests that by the end of the Cretaceous this dinosaur had a widespread distribution across the Northern Hemisphere.

The pointed ridge on Saurolophus's head may have been covered by fleshy nostrils or nostril flaps. Saurolophus may have used its bony skull structure to send honking-like sound signals to other members of its species, perhaps, as a form of courtship display. It is possible that colored skin covered the crest and stretched between it and the back of the animal's head; Saurolophus may have been able to inflate this skin covering by breathing through a hole in the front of the crest.

Saurolophus had large numbers of closely packed teeth that were well suited to chewing the hard plant material, such as ferns and conifers, that constituted its diet.

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