All About the Parasaurolophus: The Near Crested Lizard


Daniel Eskeridge via Getty Images

 

When you think of dinosaurs, you probably imagine a Tyrannosaurus Rex or Velociraptor. These are the ones that come to mind when we hear "dinosaur." However, there were actually more than 1,000 known species of dinosaurs and many of these might surprise you.

The Parasaurolophus was a weird duck among dinosaurs. It had a big crest, but it wasn't for decoration. The Parasaurolophus used its crest to make loud sounds when the animal was around other members of its species and did so by blowing air through its nose and out of the crest.

Description and Appearance

MR1805 via Getty Images

 

The Parasaurolophus is known as a Hadrosaurid or "duck-billed" dinosaur. This is because it had a big, flat head that was very similar to modern ducks. The front of its mouth was toothless and instead, the Parasaurolophus ate plants with a keratinous beak up front and sides of its mouth.

The crest on the Parasaurolophus' head is unique. Most dinosaurs that had crests on their heads either pushed the crest up into the air like a horn or to the side like a comb (think Stegosaurus) However, the Parasaurolophus' crest was structured in such a way that it could shoot water out of its mouth and into the air to come down in a "shower" around the animal.

The crest on its head could be as long as 3 feet and was hollow inside. The Parasaurolophus most likely used this to make loud noises or it may have been an intimidation tactic when the animal faced off against another dinosaur.

The fossil record shows that the Parasaurolophus had a bony tube on top of its head which connected to a fleshy crest. The Parasaurolophus' crest was full of a webbed tissue that ran from the tip of the crest to the base.

The crests also had two features associated with them: nasal openings and "cristae." Cristae are internal ridges inside the crest and nasal openings are the two holes located on top of the crest. These were very important in making sounds when blowing out air through its nose.

The Parasaurolophus would inhale and then blow out air, which came into contact with layers of bone inside the crest to produce sound. This is called a Helmholtz resonator.

The crest on the Parasaurolophus' head also functioned as a seat of resolution is, which when air comes into contact with bone ridges to make sound echoing inside the crest. This causes the Parasaurolophus to make noises similar to playing the trombone.

The sound that was produced by the Parasaurolophus were low-frequency sounds and it was not the only dinosaur that used a resonator for communication. The Parasaurolophus' cousins, the Lambeosaurus and Corythosaurus also had similar head crests to amplify sound.

The noise produced by this animal is comparable to a deep moan or groan which is why it was named the "near crested lizard."

The weight and height of the Parasaurolophus are unknown, as no complete skeletons have been found. However, scientists can estimate its weight and height by looking at the size of its bones. It is estimated that the Parasaurolophus weighed between 330 and 1,500 pounds and was up to 26 feet long.

However, not all Parasaurolphus can be almost 30 feet long as some are as small as 39 centimeters! I’m talking about Gage Beasley’s Lifelike Parasaurolophus Dinosaur Soft Stuffed Plush Toy. This little lizard isn’t going to eat up some of your garden trees and plants, but maybe it’ll eat some of your bad dreams—giving you a good night’s sleep. How does that sound?

Gage Beasley’s Lifelike Parasaurolophus Dinosaur Soft Stuffed Plush Toy

Diet

The Parasaurolophus was a herbivore and used its beak to pluck plants off the ground. It also had teeth in the back of its mouth that is used to chew up food before swallowing.

Due to its large size, the only predators that would have preyed upon this animal were tyrannosaurs or other large carnivores that would have been able to climb into its crevices.

During the Cretaceous period, there were a wide variety of different plant species and this would have been a source of food for the Parasaurolophus. It is possible that it ate other dinosaurs or small mammals, but it is unlikely given its large size.

Reproduction

The parasaurolophus laid eggs to reproduce. These eggs hatched into little baby dinosaurs that were very vulnerable and would have needed a lot of protection from the parents. It is likely that they cared for their young after it hatched and brought food back to them as well.

Most animals only care for their young for a short time after they hatch, but there are exceptions to this. Some animals will care for their babies until they are strong enough to survive on their own.

Distribution

The Parasaurolophus lived in North America during the Late Cretaceous period and roamed the area that is now Alberta, Canada.

The Parasaurolophus is now extinct but it has relatives that are still alive today such as the duck-billed platypus and crested screamer (a type of bird) The Parasaurolophus also lived near rivers and lakes and would migrate to those areas in order to consume food and breed.

Scientists think that the Parasaurolophus was very social and lived in herds to keep everyone safe from predators. The only predators they had were large carnivores such as Tyrannosaurs or other large meat-eating dinosaurs.

The Parasaurolophus became extinct during the late Cretaceous period due to a meteorite impact. The impact created dust and debris in the atmosphere which blocked out sunlight and prevented plants from growing, resulting in the death of most of the dinosaurs on Earth.

Discovery

Parasaurolophus Fossil via ExtinctAnimals

 

The Parasaurolophus was discovered in 1922 by William Parks. He found the partial skull of a Parasaurolophus along the Red Deer River near the town of Tolman Ferry, Alberta, Canada.

This area is now Dinosaur Provincial Park which has yielded many fossils for paleontologists to study since it was discovered in 1914.

Paleontologists believe that this area was once a lush forest with plenty of trees since it remains preserved for us to study today.

The fossil was given the name Parasaurolophus, which means "near crested lizard." Parasaurolophus had a bony crest on its head that resembled a decorative Renaissance hat called a cockscomb.

Scientists have not been able to fully understand why this animal evolved such an interesting crest until recently when paleontologists discovered pneumaticity in its crest. Pneumaticity is the ability to collect air inside of bones, which allows for it to be lighter and able to resonate sound more efficiently.

Final Thoughts

The Parasaurolophus was a herbivorous animal with a large, bony tube-like crest on its head. It lived during the Late Cretaceous period and inhabited an area near modern-day Alberta, Canada.

This dinosaur used this crest to make noises similar to playing the trombone but other dinosaurs such as its cousins, Corythosaurus and Lambeosaurus, used this for communication. Its weight and height are unknown although it is estimated that it weighed between 330-1500 pounds and was 26 feet long.

The Parasaurolophus laid eggs to reproduce, cared for their young after they hatched, lived in herds to stay safe from predators, migrated to areas with vegetation, and was social. It also became extinct during the late Cretaceous period due to a meteorite impact and scientists believe that it died out along with most other dinosaurs on Earth.

Sure is an interesting one, isn't it? The Parasaurolophus, even if it wasn't as aggressive and cool as the T-rex or as fast as the Velociraptor, is still one of the most prominent dinosaurs to have ever lived during those times.

 

Cheers!

-GB


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