Sunday, March 4, 2012

Creature Feature: Protoceratops.

(Apologies for the delay on this one, too. No excuses except "Kuro needed sleep." Hope to get on a better schedule during Spring Break.)  

There is nothing that captures the imagination quite like a dinosaur. It blows our minds to think of a world dominated by creatures not even remotely like us. In this fantasy, however, we frequently overlook that not all dinosaurs were huge, and there were plenty of mammals, too. 

Protoceratops was one of the smaller ceratopsid dinosaurs out there. It had been found mostly in Mongolia and, like most things with parrot beaks, ate plants. It was roughly 2 meters long at most and would barely stand up to the waist of an adult human. Forget that motorized Triceratops; let your kids ride on the back of a real mini-dino sometime.

As the name might imply, Protoceratops was one of the first real ceratopsids to hit the scene in the Early Cretaceous. It has the characteristic frill (whose purpose is still unknown), but also shares some primitive features with not-so-famous dinosaurs like Psittacosaurus - an even smaller dinosaur named after its parrot-like beak. Those are pretty neat, but do not have as many clearly ceratopsian features as Protoceratops. Proto's a transition form, if you will.

The first fossilized dinosaur eggs ever came from a Protoceratops. These are largely assumed to be from Protoceratops simply because of the area they were found in; nobody knows for sure whether baby protos hatched from them or not. Baby Protoceratops were found in 2011. It has been suggested that Protoceratops, as well as other ceratopsians, took care of their young.

Protoceratops may well have been the origin of the gryphon. Take a look at the beak on a Protoceratops and one can easily see where the idea of a four-legged eagle beast came from. Furthermore, the particular area in which the Protoceratops was found has been known for gold deposits, explaining the gryphon's reputation as a keeper of treasure. The invention of the modern gryphon coincides with the introduction of Scythian traders to Greece. Dragons weren't the only mythological creatures with a link to dinosaurs.

Protoceratops is also a Vivosaur in Fossil Fighters, for those of you interested. In the first game, it was able to become a Tricera - fitting, no? Just sayin'. 

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