Scientists Uncover Evidence of Dinosaur Camouflage in Psittacosaurus

Posted on September 16, 2016

Psittacosaurus model in Bristol Botanic Garden

Researchers from the University of Bristol say the Psittacosaurus dinosaur species had a color pattern known as countershading. This is a common form of camouflage in modern animals. The color pattern was evident in preserved skin on the 120 million year old fossil found in China.

The dinosaur species was named Psittacosaurus after its parrot-like beak. The name means "parrot lizard." Psittacosaurus was an early relative of triceratop. The researchers say the dinosaur lived in an environment with diffuse light, such as a forest.

Dr Jakob Vinther from the Schools of Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences, says in the announcement, "The fossil, which is on public display at the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History in Germany, preserves clear countershading, which has been shown to function by counter-illuminating shadows on a body, thus making an animal appear optically flat to the eye of the beholder."

Psittacosaurus fossil


The researchers worked with palaeoartist Bob Nicholls to reconstruct the remarkable fossil as a physical model. The scientists say this model "is the most scientifically accurate life-size model of a dinosaur with its real color patterns." This model was placed in the Cretaceous plant section of Bristol Botanic Garden for the above photograph.

Nicholls says, "Our Psittacosaurus was reconstructed from the inside-out. There are thousands of scales, all different shapes and sizes, and many of them are only partially pigmented. It was a painstaking process but we now have the best suggestion as to what this dinosaur really looked like."



A research paper on the findings was published here in the journal, Current Biology.

Photos: Jakob Vinther and Robert Nicholls