THE well-preserved skull of the rare Parasaurolophus has revealed what the hollow tube or crest on its head was used for.
The duck-billed dinosaur Parasaurolophus is best known for this crest, but since its discovery, almost a century ago, there has been no chance to observe its skull intact and its use has been a subject of debate amongst palaeontologists for decades.
Thanks to an extremely well-preserved partial skull, detailed in a new study in the journal PeerJ, shows the intact structure of its tube-shaped nasal passage. It had an internal network of airways for breathing, but may also been used for communicating. In short, it was like a trumpet. But this particular ‘trumpet’ had grown inwards from the dinosaur’s nose and respiratory passages.
“My jaw dropped when I first saw the fossil,” Terry Gates, a palaeontologist from North Carolina State University and lead author of the paper, said in a statement. “I’ve been waiting for nearly 20 years to see a specimen of this quality.”
David Evans, vice president of natural history at the Royal Ontario Museum, said “we now think these crests functioned primarily as sound resonators and visual displays used to communicate within their own species.”
The partial dinosaur skull was discovered by Smithsonian ecology fellow Erin Spear in 2017 in northwestern New Mexico.
Remains of the three known species of Parasaurolophus have been found in dig sites from Alberta, Canada to New Mexico, in rocks that date back between 77 million and 73.5 million years. The three species have descended from a common ancestor.
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