The tube-crested hadrosaurid dinosaur Parasaurolophus is remarkable for its unusual cranial ornamentation, but little is known about its growth and development, particularly relative to well-documented ontogenetic series for lambeosaurin hadrosaurids (such as Corythosaurus, Lambeosaurus, and Hypacrosaurus). The skull and skeleton of a juvenile Parasaurolophus from the late Campanian-aged (∼75.5 Ma) Kaiparowits Formation of southern Utah, USA, represents the smallest and most complete specimen yet described for this taxon. The individual was approximately 2.5 m in body length (∼25% maximum adult body length) at death, with a skull measuring 246 mm long and a femur 329 mm long. A histological section of the tibia shows well-vascularized, woven and parallel-fibered primary cortical bone typical of juvenile ornithopods. The histological section revealed no lines of arrested growth or annuli, suggesting the animal may have still been in its first year at the time of death. Impressions of the upper rhamphotheca are preserved in association with the skull, showing that the soft tissue component for the beak extended for some distance beyond the limits of the oral margin of the premaxilla. In marked contrast with the lengthy tube-like crest in adult Parasaurolophus, the crest of the juvenile specimen is low and hemicircular in profile, with an open premaxilla-nasal fontanelle. Unlike juvenile lambeosaurins, the nasal passages occupy nearly the entirety of the crest in juvenile Parasaurolophus. Furthermore, Parasaurolophus initiated development of the crest at less than 25% maximum skull size, contrasting with 50% of maximum skull size in hadrosaurs such as Corythosaurus. This early development may correspond with the larger and more derived form of the crest in Parasaurolophus, as well as the close relationship between the crest and the respiratory system. In general, ornithischian dinosaurs formed bony cranial ornamentation at a relatively younger age and smaller size than seen in extant birds. This may reflect, at least in part, that ornithischians probably reached sexual maturity prior to somatic maturity, whereas birds become reproductively mature after reaching adult size.
Keywords: Parasaurolophus, Ontogeny, Hadrosauridae, Kaiparowits Formation, Cretaceous, Dinosauria, Lambeosaurinae, Ornithischia, Heterochrony
Andrew A. Farke, Derek J. Chok, Annisa Herrero, Brandon Scolieri and Sarah Werning. 2013. Ontogeny in the tube-crested dinosaur Parasaurolophus (Hadrosauridae) and heterochrony in hadrosaurids. PeerJ 1:e182 http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.182