Sunday, May 19, 2013

Creature Feature: Lambeosaurus.

It seems that filmmakers have decided on a "set" of dinosaurs that must always make it into every dinosaur movie ever. T-Rex is pretty much a given. Triceratops is also popular. If there is a pterosaur, and there usually is, it's either a Pteranodon or some bastardization thereof. Miscellaneous herbivores include Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus, with Brachiosaurus being almost too distinct to be generic. They also usually include this one:

For those of you wondering what this bizarre-looking creature is, it's called a Parasaurolophus and is one of the many duck-billed dinosaurs (hadrosaurs) out there. It seems to have become the "default" duckbill. I'm not quite sure what "modern parallel" people see in Parasaurolophus and other hadrosaurs (ancient water buffalo?), but I digress. Point is, as with pterosaurs, there's always that one hadrosaur that popular culture falls back on.

Maybe it's about time we looked at some of the other hadrosaurs on this blog, yes?

Lambeosaurus probably should be the strange duckbill everybody knows. It has a very good fossil record from Canada, Montana, and Baja California. There is some debate over exactly how many species there are in the genus, but specimens are nonetheless plentiful. It is named for the guy who discovered the first few fossils, Lawrence Lambe. Like most of the cool dinosaurs, it is from the Late Cretaceous. It is also the largest hadrosaur, getting up to 50 feet long from head to tail.

As with many hadrosaurs, the most distinguishing feature about Lambeosaurus was its crest. This crest was hatchet-shaped, making the dinosaur look like a cassowary and a unicorn at the same time.  It's hard to get more awesome than that, yet here hadrosaurs are stuck with the goofy Parasaurolophus as their representative. Kinda sad, really.

Nobody is 100% sure what these crests were for. Snorkels and salt glands are also on the table. Maybe they could even make noise; again, people love shilling Parasaurolophus for this ("it's a dinosaur with a built-in trumpet!"). There is adequate evidence that hearing and sight were a Lambeosaurus's strongest senses, so all of the above are possible. We've never seen hadrosaurs in action, or in color, for that matter, so the purpose(s) of these crests will remain a mystery until we invent time machines.

I cold get into more about what makes a hadrosaur a hadrosaur, but that is best saved for another time. Hell, I should just make a "Hadrosaur Week." They're really rather interesting, albeit not my favorite dinosaurs.

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