A life table for Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis: initial insights into ornithischian dinosaur population biology

Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2009 Sep;292(9):1514-21. doi: 10.1002/ar.20992.


Very little is known about nonavian dinosaur population biology. Multi-individual sampling and longevity estimation using growth line counts can be used to construct life tables-the foundation for population analyses in ecology. Here we have determined the size and age distribution for a sample consisting of 80 individuals of the small ornithischian, Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis from the early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of China. Their ages ranged from less than a year to eleven years and the distribution was strongly right-skewed. This is consistent with taphonomic interpretations that these animals derive from a catastrophic death assemblage. The static life table analysis revealed the same general pattern of survivorship as tyrannosaurs including increased attrition before the attainment of full adult size. This may reflect increased physiological demands and/or predation exposure associated with reproduction. Collectively these findings suggest that most nonavian dinosaurs may have had a similar life history strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Anatomy, Comparative / methods
  • Animals
  • Body Size / physiology*
  • Bone Development / physiology
  • Dinosaurs / anatomy & histology*
  • Dinosaurs / growth & development*
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Paleontology / methods
  • Population Dynamics
  • Social Behavior
  • Survival Rate