Psittacosaurus again

Psittacosaurus is a genus that has had much coverage on the Musings if only becuase there are so many specimens floating around. However, while I’ve at least made mention of it, the most important specimen had not really featured here before and so here it is (well a cast). This is the famous / infamous ‘filamentous’ specimen that was purported to show an ornithischian with something close to protofeathers. It caused a storm of controversy, partly because of the apparently illegal acquisition of the specimen and also because it was far from clear if these were filaments or not. Obviously the appearance of Tianyulong went a very long way to convincing people that this was likely for real and not just the remnants of a plant, what with that being an ornithischian covered in them. This remains then a most important and much understudied specimen – would kinda help if it turned up – anyone know where it is?

10 Responses to “Psittacosaurus again”

  1. 1 kattato Garu 05/12/2011 at 11:43 am

    Hi that’s such a great specimen. I hadn’t realised that it was preserved in a ‘belly-up’ pose – it strikes me that that any dorsal filaments would have been hidden by the body, no? They end rather abruptly halfway up the tail but maybe that’s just the way the ‘crest’ was squashed (stiff bristles might only be folded one way or another…). In which case, Psittacosaurus could plausibly have had a crest of filaments or whatever they are all the way up, which would be a parsimonious assumption since Tianyulong had these – In which case, the familiar reconstructions of the brush-tailed Psittacosaurus could be due to a quirk of taphonomy…

  2. 2 Lars Dietz 05/12/2011 at 1:28 pm

    The specimen is exhibited at the Senckenberg Museum, Frankfurt, Germany:

    • 3 David Hone 05/12/2011 at 1:37 pm

      Well was. I was at the Senkenberg about 5 years ago and I was told that the piece on display was a cast, the original having been returned to China. When I was in the IVPP I was told it had indeed been returned to China, but that no one knew where it had gone.

      • 4 Bruce J. Mohn 05/12/2011 at 2:41 pm

        A lot of the current flock of reconstructions are no doubt quirks of taphonomy. The tail tip and manus only feathers seen in Caudipteryx almost certainly reflect decomposition rates, not actual placement of feathers. In my field observations and experiments, bird feathers remain longest at the tips of the tail and wings, even though we know there were feathers distributed more evenly over the entire body of the living bird.

      • 5 Lars Dietz 05/12/2011 at 6:02 pm

        OK, I didn’t know this. The website I linked to must be outdated then.

      • 6 David Hone 05/12/2011 at 7:48 pm

        Well that’s what I was told by Germany colleagues and while I had a lot less experience back then, it did look like a cast that was on display in Frankfurt.

  3. 7 Lucas Fiorelli 05/12/2011 at 4:09 pm

    A truly amazing specimen. The small dark circles on the left forelimb, are pigmented scales? (are also visible in the right arm, near to the neck)
    …and the small dark structures in the belly, is stomach contents?
    David, I always see your blog, is very nice. Good photos, good info…


    Lucas Fiorelli
    La Rioja, Argentina

    • 8 David Hone 05/12/2011 at 5:27 pm

      I think those are scales yes, but if they are dark because of pigment or staining or are just larger I don’t know. Certainly the other dark patch does look like stomach contents.

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