Improving Dinosaur Imagery

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Thanks to the latest discoveries in China, paleoartist Robert Nicholls has sculpted this depiction of the Psittacosaurus. The dinosaur is a turkey-sized herbivore that once roamed the lands of Asia. The sculpture has a steel frame with polystyrene and wire mesh used to add bulk and clay was formed into all the little details. The clay piece was used to make a mould and create a fiberglass model to paint. The model and the incredibly detailed and revealing fossil it was based off of can be seen at the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History in Frankfurt, Germany. The team that helped to create this model used a laser to examine the pigments of the dinosaur. The artist commented that the structure of this dinosaur surprised him and “when the anatomy surprises me – it confirms that I’ve followed the fossil evidence rather than any preconceived ideas of my own”. The dinosaur is named for its parrot-like appearance, but analyses of its beak and potential muscular structures suggest it could not have had the same unique muscles as the parrot.

psittacosaurus2bmodel-nicholls

The next step in the analysis coming from this exciting fossil find was trying to learn more about the animal’s environment. Instead of following the typical path of predicting and understanding animal appearance based off of their environment, the scientists figured out the appearance first and observed the model’s camouflage abilities in different environments, finding that the shading worked best in forest environments where the light is diffused. The facial shading did not match with this camouflaging technique so experts predict the facial appearance was mostly for show.

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