Spectacular dinosaur fossils

Since the nineties it seems like you can’t turn around without tripping over some fabulous new dinosaur fossil, but this is pretty good even by that standard.

The Psittacosaurus specimen Vinther’s team studied is held at the Senkenberg Museum in Frankfurt. It is a complete skeleton from one of the world’s best preserved fossil deposits in China. Named the Jehol Biota, these deposits are a Lagerstätte, from the German for storage place­: they are literally a rocky safehouse for the world’s most well-preserved fossils. There are a handful of Lagerstätte around the world, famed for yielding remains that retain their fossilised soft tissues, feathers, fur, skin and stomach contents. The Senckenburg Psittacosaurus is an exceptional example…

As dinosaurs go, Psittacosaurus is interesting but not especially beautiful or impressive. But preserved right down to the pigments. Wow. Click through to see artists’ renditions of the animal.

Biggest question, not addressed by the linked article: what the devil is that sheaf of bristles on the tail for? That is a peculiarly unimpressive idea for social display, one would think, and yet what other possible function could bristles like that serve?

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