Wow! I was unaware that skin pigments could survive fossilization. And those feathery tufts at the base of the tail? Remarkable.

I was particularly tickled by this line in the article: “For those who don’t know their dinosaurs (or don’t have a small child to haughtily inform them), Psittacosaurus fossils are commonly found across most of Asia.”

Originally shared by Yonatan Zunger

Psittacosaurus lived in Asia between 123 and 100 million years ago. They grew up to two meters long and weighed up to 20kg, (about as much as a bulldog), walked on two legs, had relatively large brains for dinosaurs (comparable to modern birds), and ate some combination of plants, nuts, and seeds.

And thanks to a bit of luck, a fossil Psittacosaurus was found in spectacular condition, with skin intact enough to both show off the structure of its cloaca (that all-purpose orifice it shares with modern birds) and to recover actual pigments from its skin.

Using this and other fossils, a team at the University of Bristol have performed the most detailed reconstruction of a dinosaur ever done: from figuring out its facial musculature (which you can determine from skull thickness) to the coloration of its body. This, in turn, has allowed more discoveries: for example, from its camouflage pattern, we know it lived in a relatively dark environment, like under a forest canopy.

The article below is full of details and pictures: everything from what this odd creature looked like, to how it behaved, to how we figured it all out.

h/t Stefani Banerian

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