Many different types of dinosaurs roamed the planet during the reptiles’ long reign. Dinosaur fossils are the most important clues that the creatures left behind. While some fossil discoveries are rather straightforward in terms of anatomy, others are a bit of a mystery. That’s how scientists discovered a dinosaur with a 5-foot snorkel or trumpet for a nose.
Discover this unique dinosaur as well as the controversy surrounding the dinosaur’s anatomy. See what scientists believe about the large structure on its head!
What Was the Dinosaur with a 5-Foot Snorkel or Trumpet for a Nose?
The dinosaur that had a 5-foot snorkel or trumpet for a nose was called Parasaurolophus. The type species for this genus is Parasaurolophus walker. The rough translation of the name Parasaurolophus is the near-crested lizard. The herbivorous creature lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, about 76.5 to 73 million years ago.
The first fossil of this dinosaur was found in Alberta, Canada in 1920. Since then, scientists have uncovered fossil specimens from many other places in the United States, like Utah and Montana.
The dinosaur’s fossil remains are not entirely complete. As a result, scientists don’t know a fair amount about the genus. Based on the fossils they have recovered, they believe that the reptile measured about 31 feet long, stood about 9 feet tall, and weighed about 5,600 pounds.
Their heads measured about 5 feet 3 inches long when counting the total length of their crest. The crest on their heads is the greatest subject of interest about these dinosaurs. After all, this bony structure started around the dinosaur’s nose and grew back over the head.
Scientists have a few theories about this crest, but it is still a bit mysterious.
What Was the Structure on the Parasaurolophus’ Head?
Parasaurolophus’ crest is still a subject of debate among scientists today. This crest jutted from the back of the dinosaur’s head. Scientists have determined that the crest was a hollow structure with tubes that led from the nostrils to the back of the crest and then back to the nostrils.
Scientists have been baffled by the presence of this structure on the dinosaur’s head since it was first discovered. The only problem with figuring out what the crest was used for is that it rarely held up in fossils.
When fossils are made, they are covered in sediment. That sediment can weigh a lot, and it rarely preserves physical elements that can be crushed beneath its weight. That is what happened to many Parasaurolophus crest specimens.
So, the question remains: how did the dinosaur with a 5-foot snorkel or trumpet on its head use its crest? Let’s take a closer look at two theories.
Was There Really a Dinosaur with a 5-Foot Snorkel?
The first theory concerning the structure on the dinosaur’s head was that it acted as a snorkel. That theory was introduced during the early decades following the dinosaur’s discovery and description. At least one scientist believed that the Parasaurolophus used the crest as a snorkel.
After all, the dinosaur was an herbivore. Parasaurolophus could have used the crest as a way to breathe underwater, to store air, or to act as a water trap while diving to get access to marine vegetation. This theory was supported by early reconstructions of the dinosaur that featured webbed feet, suggesting an aquatic lifestyle.
However, the belief that the Parasaurolophus was a semi-aquatic dinosaur was overstated, and it turns out that the dinosaur spent most of its life on land. Thus, the crest was probably not a 5-foot snorkel that helped the creature gather vegetation from lakes and rivers.
Was the Structure a Trumpet?
Another theory about the purpose of the dinosaur’s crest was that it acted as a trumpet. In other words, the dinosaur would use this structure to make noise. That seems like the most likely reason for the crest to exist.
The secondary question that appears after learning that the crest is not a 5-foot snorkel is: why did the dinosaur need to make noise? Studies show that dinosaurs of this genus had good hearing. So, the crest could have served many purposes. For example, a Parasaurolophus could use it to signal to other members of its herd that danger is in the area.
Another possibility is that it was used for intra-species recognition. Some scientists believe that the dinosaur may have even used the crest for identifying their species and their sex to others.
So, the most likely theory is that Parasaurolophus used the immense crest for communicating with others. Yet, like other animals’ structures, the Parasaurolophus may have used its crest for more than a single purpose aside from communication.
Thermoregulation in Parasaurolophus
The final theory is that Parasaurolophus used its crest to aid in thermoregulation. The large size of the crest and its vascularization could be signs that it was used to help cool the dinosaur’s brain. If the dinosaur was taking part in a persistent activity in a warm environment, it could overheat.
To maintain proper health and function, the Parasaurolophus’ large crest could have acted as a structure to dissipate heat. However, it’s doubtful that this was the sole use of the structure.
The Parasaurolophus was an interesting dinosaur about which much has been written. The creature’s large crest has been the subject of many studies and theories. Realistically, this was not a dinosaur with a 5-foot snorkel. The crest was most likely used to facilitate communications with other members of the species. It may have served a secondary function for thermoregulation. One thing is clear, though: it was not a snorkel!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Danny Ye/Shutterstock.com
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