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Head posture if the lateral (horizontal) semi-circular canal is parallel to the ground, in hatching (A), juvenile (B) and adult (C) Psittacosaurus lutjiatunensis. Images not to scale. Credit: Claire Bullar and IVPP.
New research by a University of Bristol palaeontology post-graduate student has revealed fresh insights into how the braincase of the dinosaur Psittacosaurus developed and how this tells us about its posture.
Psittacosaurus - Dinosaur - Cretaceous - Period—125 - Years
Psittacosaurus was a very common dinosaur in the Early Cretaceous period—125 million years ago—that lived in eastern Asia, especially north-east China.
Hundreds of samples have been collected which show it was a beaked plant-eater, an early representative of the Ceratopsia, which had later relatives with great neck frills and face horns, such as Triceratops.
Babies - Beasts - Metres - Adults
The babies hatched out as tiny, hamster-sized beasts and grew to two metres long as adults.
As they grew, the brain changed in shape, from being crammed into the back of the head, behind the huge eyes in the hatchling, to being longer, and extending under the skull roof in the adults.
Braincase - Evidence - Change - Posture - Animals
The braincase also shows evidence for a change in posture as the animals grew. There is good evidence from the relative lengths of the arms and legs, that baby Psittacosaurus scurried about on all fours, but by the age of two or three, they switched to a bipedal posture, standing up on their elongate hind legs and using their arms to grab plant food.
Claire Bullar from the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences led the new research which has been published this week in PeerJ.
Orientation - Canals - Changes - Posture - Switch
She said: "I was excited to see that the orientation of the semi-circular canals changes to show this posture switch.
"The semi-circular canals are the structures inside our ears that help us keep balance, and the so-called horizontal semi-circular canal should be just that—horizontal—when the animal is standing in its normal...
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