Dino Index

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Latin Name Parasaurolophus
Everyday Name Parasaurolophus
Length 10 meters
Height 2.8 meters
Weight 2,700 Kilo
Diet herbivore
Period Cretaceous
Pronunciation Pah - rah - sor - aah - la - fus

Parasaurolophus was a member of the hadrosaurs. They are also sometimes called the duck-billed dinosaurs. They are well known for having unusual heads, and head shapes.

Tube Head

This hadrosaur also had an unusual shaped head. It was a big tube attached as an elongation of the skull, sweeping back in a long arch. This tube spawned all sorts of interesting ideas about what it was for.

Many Functions

One of the strangest functions suggested was as a flamethrower. Duane Gish, who suggested this, said that perhaps it held a strong chemical like the bombardier beetle, to shoot at its enemies.

Another idea was that the tube was a snorkel for breathing while underwater. In the 1960fs many paleontologists thought many dinosaurs spent a lot of time in the water (almost amphibious) and this 'snorkel' could help it swim. The problem is that there is no hole at the end to function as a snorkel. But these old ideas have been replaced with fresh thinking.

Fresh Ideas

Now, researchers think that the tube on the head of parasaurolophus was used for communication. David B. Weishampel even tested this hypothesis (it is even rumored that he used bathroom tubing as an early prototype!) to produce low pitched sounds similar to elephants today.

Many hadrosaurids had strong hearing, and this is supported by finding a reptilian ear bone in one hadrosaurid accompanied by plenty of space to produce a sensitive middle ear.

On the other hand, perhaps the crest was used for giving information to other parasaurolophus, like whether it is female of male. Or perhaps to clearly tell the difference between individuals. Elephantfs ears get scars over time. These scars can be used to tell which elephant it is. They are identifying marks. Perhaps the crests made strong clear identifying marks.

Flap of Skin

Some paleontologists even think that there might have been a flap of skin between the crest and the back of the neck. If there were such a feature it could have done a variety of things. For instance, if could help with cooling. Or it could be a way of signalling anger, or readiness for mating, if the color could change.

It is not clear exactly what function (or functions?) the crest served, but the communication by sound seems to be the strongest theory going.