Infographic: Dino discovery

What does a dinosaur look like? Most people would refer to books or even popular films like Jurassic Park for reference, and would use words like
scaly and reptile-like to describe it.

Paleoartist Bob Nicolls would do none of this. Based on studies of a fossil dug up in Jinzhou, China, a few years ago, Mr Nicolls, with the help of Dr Jakob Vinther of the UK's University of Bristol, was able to reconstruct what is said to be the most accurate dinosaur model ever.

The dinosaur fossil used in this research was of an early Cretaceous age species called Psittacosaurus Mongoliensis, nicknamed parrot-lizard, due to its size and bird-like beak. Commonly found in East Asia, this particular fossil was found with intact skin, feather and other soft tissue.

The research team utilised specialised laser equipment to scan the fossil, revealing detailed skin pigmentation. This study revealed that the Psittacosaurus has a special colouration in its skin called countershading, that allows it to be used as camouflage, similar to certain animals today such as gazelles.

The nature of the colouration also sheds light on the habitat of the Psittacosaurus. The dark colouring of the skin suggests that it could have lived in forested areas, where it could blend into the surroundings.

Graphic: The New Paper

This article was first published on Oct 18, 2016.
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