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Three 'Species' Of Dinosaur Are Actually Only One -
New Study Of Fossils Shows

10 August, 2013

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MessageToEagle.com - University of Pennsylvania researchers have revealed that a number of specimens of the genus Psittacosaurus -- once believed to represent three different species -- are all members of a single species.

The differences among the fossil remains that led other scientists to label them as separate species in fact arose from how the animals were buried and compressed, the study found.

"Because of the vagaries of fossilization, no two fossils are the same," said senior author Peter Dodson, professor of anatomy in Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine and professor of paleontology in the School of Arts a nd Sciences' Department of Earth and Environmental Science.


Psittacosaurus was a small, herbivorous, or plant-eating, relatively rare dinosaur that inhabited Asia during the early Cretaceous period, about 98 to 144 million years ago. Psittacosaurus is the sole genus in the family Psittacosauridae, which contains the so-called “parrot dinosaurs.”


"Animals are alive and they die, but what's crucial in paleontology is what happens to the animals after they die."

The research involved a cutting-edge technique, known as three-dimensional geometric morphometrics, which uses lasers to generate data about the shape of different specimens.

This is the first time the approach has been used to study dinosaur fossils and could lead to a re-examination of the taxonomic classifications of additional dinosaur species as well as other long-extinct fossil organisms.

The investigation focused on dinosaurs in the genus Psittacosaurus, a word that comes from the Greek for "parrot lizard."

The group was named for the animal's beaked face, not unlike that of a turtle.

Originally discovered in 1923, 15 species have been classified as Psittacosaurus, though a recent analysis confirmed only nine of these as definite members of the genus.

These animals were small plant-eaters that lived 120 to 125 million years ago. Paleontologists have discovered Psittacosaurus fossils in Mongolia, China and Russia and possibly in Thailand.


Psittacosaurus and pond. Credits: Walter Myers, http://www.arcadiastreet.com


"Meat-eaters are sexy; plant-eaters are not," Dodson said. "This isn't a flashy dinosaur. But it has an interesting feature in that it's one of the most abundant dinosaurs known to science."

"Hopefully this will open up the paleontological community to using three-dimensional geometrics morphometrics in a variety of ways," Hedrick said.

"This technique has limitless applications to understanding dinosaurs."

Paper.


MessageToEagle.com

See also:
Can Scientists Really Resurrect Dinosaurs, The Neanderthal Man And Other Extinct Species?

Fascinating Gigantic Creatures Today Totally Extinct 13,000 Years Ago Coexisted With Early Americans

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