Psittacosaurus, or the 'parrot lizard', was a small plant eating dinosaur that lived in Mongolia and China during the Early Cretaceous, 100 to 120 million years ago. About the size of a large dog, this peaceful creature used its beak and rough teeth to cut and crush tough plants. Recent discoveries revealed the skin color and pattern of Psittacosaurus and also showed that it had an unusual row of bristles along the top of its tail.
Psittacosaurus was first discovered in the Gobi Desert,Mongolia, during an expedition organized by the American Museum ofNatural History in 1922. Psittacosaurus was described and named the following year.Its name translates as 'parrot lizard' because it had a deep,curved beak reminiscent of a parrot's.
A wealth of fossil material, including adults, juveniles, andbabies, makes Psittacosaurus one of the best-known of all the dinosaurs.Soft tissues have even been found preserved in a Psittacosaurus skeleton discovered in Liaoning Province,China. This impressive fossil shows the outline of the body andeven indicates the color and pattern of the skin, which was darkeron top and lighter underneath. It also shows a row of bristlesrunning along the top of the tail, which may have been forshow.
Psittacosaurus was a ceratopsian dinosaur, the group thatincludes the famous horned Triceratops. Both of these dinosaurs share key characterssuch as a beak and cheek spikes. However, Psittacosaurus is a much older and smaller cousin, onlyabout the size of a large dog.
Some species of Psittacosaurus lived in the arid environments of EarlyCretaceous Mongolia, while others occupied the forested wetlands ofEarly Cretaceous China.