What is wrong with these hatchling Protoceratops?

Well I’ve got past my internet problems but a crash wiped out the new posts I had been preparing so while this will end the drought, expect only a few short ones for the next few days while I catch up. On that note, I would reiterate that I’m still looking for donated archosaur pictures for future posts.

IMG_2548So in the meantime enjoy this simple and unexciting quiz. This statue stands outside the IVPP and I walk past it several times a day going to and from the building and yet it was only after a year that a comment from Dave Unwin made me realise that there is a rather obvious mistake in the model. I’m not talking about minor anatomical tweaks like leg position or nostril size, so for any budding palaeontolgoists or developmental biologists what’s wrong here?

The answer for those that have not already got it is that these are rather obviously adult animals hatching from the eggs! If these were babies they should have hatchling like proportions – large heads relative to the body size and the frills and jugal bosses (cheek horns to be less jargon-y) should be much smaller if there at all. One would not expect these kinds fo secondary sexual characteristics to appear until adolesence and indeed this is what we see in the fossils of juvenile Protoceratops and close relatives like Psittacosaurus. I suspect the reason I missed this (and indeed I know many of my colleagues have done the same) if that the animals look *right*. They are well proportioned and well designed Protoceratops – accurate in every major way and they fit the metal image of a Protoceratops so there’s nothing wrong per se to trigger a mental reaction that there is a mistake. The eroor lies neither in the egg or the animal, but the fact that the two are together.

Well that’s it for ornithischian growth patterns and ornamentation, more Musings to come soon.

10 Responses to “What is wrong with these hatchling Protoceratops?”


  1. 1 Mike Keesey 19/07/2009 at 1:39 am

    I have to say the one on the left also has a rather anthropomorphic pose. Not so much an inaccuracy as just kind of disturbing.

  2. 2 Steve O'C 19/07/2009 at 3:12 am

    Like Keesey, My firt thought was the left one. Are it’s arms within a plausible range of motion?

  3. 3 Aaron Doyle 19/07/2009 at 6:02 am

    The frills should be nowhere near that pronounced in hatchlings.

  4. 4 Zach Miller 19/07/2009 at 6:32 am

    They’re both just plain creepy. I would’ve said, though, that they don’t look much like baby ceratopsians, or even adult ceratopsiuans. Aside from the head, they look like freak mutant ceratopsians.

  5. 5 Tor Bertin 19/07/2009 at 7:50 am

    Partly it’s the fact that the baby is somehow leaning on the eggshell he’s crawling out of, like it’s made of concrete or something.

  6. 6 Tor Bertin 19/07/2009 at 7:52 am

    Or not. Saw it at a weird angle… still, it looks like he’s about to walk away on his two legs while using his hands to remove the shell and lean on something.

    Way bizarre looking.

  7. 7 nobdy home 20/07/2009 at 4:26 am

    Does anyone else see “breasts” and nipples?

  8. 8 russell1200 20/07/2009 at 9:55 am

    I asked my 5 year old about donating some archiosaur pictures. He just got a Carnegie Postosuchus he could use as a model. But he admitted that he is not real good at that kind of drawing unless someone gives him some lines first (I think he is referring to coloring in a coloring book).

    He does have a before-the-dinosaurs coloring book that he has been working on. So he is not a neophyte. So if you have some lines he can color in I am sure he would be happy to oblige.

  9. 9 Nathan Myers 20/07/2009 at 1:00 pm

    I’m guessing they shouldn’t have the downward-projecting side horns yet, whatever the hell they’re called.

  10. 10 Nathan Myers 20/07/2009 at 1:02 pm

    Ha! I should have read farther, but that would be cheating.


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