The rise (and rise) of Psittacosaurus

If there is one dinosaur that’s near impossible to avoid in China it’s Psittacosaurus. Despite my general lack of interest in small ornithischians (compared only to other archosaurs really, don’t think I don’t like ‘em) I’ve seen dozens of these simply because they are so ubiquitous.

I’m not aware of any hard data on the subject, and it would be very difficult to collect, but I’d be surprised if Psittacosaurus were not the most numerous dinosaur in the fossil record. At the very least there are hundreds of recorded specimens in China and that also means there are likely hundreds more sitting unprepared, or uncatalogued in various collections or obscure provincial museums in addition to those collected in Mongolia and Tahiland, and the likely hundreds more that have been collected illegally. They certainly turn up with monotonous regularity at trade fairs and with fossil dealers, and in localities where they are present (and there are a great many of those) they are often by far the most common thing found. There are, in short, a lot of them.

It is therefore, probably only my lack of enthusiasm for them that has stopped me from covering this wee beastie before since the IVPP has at least a dozen specimens and several on display (though they have sneaked in here in the past). If noting else Psittcosaurus is unusual as we have lots of specimens from Lianoning as well as other sites, so you often see flat 2-D psittacosaurs and complete 3D ones.

Here are a few of the latter from the IVPP with both original material and casts being on display.

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8 Responses to “The rise (and rise) of Psittacosaurus”


  1. 1 Zach Miller 25/01/2010 at 5:41 am

    Certainly a cute little genus. Aren’t there an overabundance of species for this guy? I think, though I’m not positive, that the mythical ceratopsian volume (due out in March, last I heard) will include a critical examination of the wealth of Psittacosaurus species and, possible, try to synonymize a few.

    Certainly, there does seem to be an awful lot of variation within the genus.

    • 2 David Hone 25/01/2010 at 7:57 am

      Well it’s hard to say (and I’m no expert on the group) but when you have only 1 specimen of soemthing it’ll obvious be in it’s own species, but when you have 500 or 1000 or 5000 it gets’ tricky. The scale of the problem means it’s very hard to expecnd the time and effort to collect all the data on every speciemn which you might need to try and work out what the intraspecific variation is like. It’ll still be subjective though to a degree – one man’s subspecies with unusually long jugal bosses is another man’s new genus. Last time I checked there were about 13 valid species, which hardly seems excessive for something with hundreds if not thousands of specimens known, but then they could all be one species with lots of minor variation known. It needs a solid and thorough revision, so lets see what this volume holds.

  2. 3 Cuervo 01/02/2011 at 1:21 am

    Sorry , what specie of psitaccosaurus is?

  3. 5 Django 01/03/2011 at 2:56 am

    Cuervo:
    It looks to me like P. lujiatunensis, and if it’s from the Yixian formation, it probably is.

  4. 6 Robert Tedders 09/12/2011 at 9:41 pm

    Woah, is this thing even more common that Protoceratops then? I have heard P. andrewsi being dubbed the ‘Cretaceous sheep’ due to the no. that have been found across the Gobi.


  1. 1 Jugal Boss « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 22/03/2011 at 7:08 am
  2. 2 Psittacosaurus again « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 05/12/2011 at 11:06 am

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