Even with my limited grasp of the ornithischian and hadrosaurs in particular, I’m aware of the odd story of the ‘horn’ of Tsintaosaurus and thanks to the presence of a great mount and the original skull itself on display at the IVPP, it seemed suitable to retell the tale and continue this little sequence of ornithischian posts.
Many hadrosaurs have crests of some description on their heads that reach a peak in things like Parasaurolophus and Corythosaurus and Tsintaosaurus appears at first glance to be no exception. There’s a fairly obvious long bony shaft coming out of the front of the skull and rising into the air, and this was how it was originally described.
However, a later look at the specimen suggested that this was misleading. It’s not too clear from these photos I’m afraid, but it’s pretty obvious that the ‘crest’ fits pretty well into the slot of the middle of the skull. In other words, it looks suspiciously like there was in fact no crest and that this fossil merely had its nasal bones massively skewed up in the air to give an illusion of a crest when in fact there was none.
However! This position then reversed again with the discovery of another specimen which suggested that there was a crest. This specimen has exactly the same morphology as the first and since it already would have been a very odd pathology or bit of preservation to bend those bones up in that way one, to have done so twice in exactly the same way shows that the crest is in fact genuine. Thus, the crest is genuine and Tsintaosaurus really does have this unusual and dramatic crest.
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