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Parrot Dino

June 30, 2013

Today I learned about a dinosaur that switches from walking on all fours as a baby to only two feet as an adult. It’s called Psittacosaurus, or parrot dinosaur for shorts, and it’s kind of neat. It’s actually a genus, not just a single species, and they are all grouped together because their upper jaw is a legit beak (hence the nickname parrot dino).

Surely the most accurate depiction

We have quite a few fossils from these guys, so they make for good study material. A researcher at the University of Bristol named Qi Zhao decided to check out how these guys might have walked throughout their lives, because he’s a total party animal and that’s just how he rolls. To do this he got special permission to slice up some fossilized bone samples from these dinos ranging from baby to adult.

He found that they actually start off walking on all four legs for the first 1-3 years of their lives, at which point they switch to being bipedal. The evidence supporting this idea comes from the fact that the forearms grow much more rapidly during the early years, causing their four limbs to be roughly the same length. Then things switch around 3 years old and the back legs start growing until they’re actually double the length of the forearms. With such long forearms as youngsters, it’s most likely that they were trolling around on all fours… but when they’re adult legs grow in it makes more sense that they would be bipedal. At which point they could start to perfect their dino pimpwalk.


It’s pretty cool work because it helps us understand the evolution of such creatures and also gives us information about how they may have lived their lives as juvenilles vs. adults in terms of feeding, fleeing, fighting, and that other fun f-word. Science is neat!


From → Dinosawrs

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