Testing for a dietary shift in the Early Cretaceous ceratopsian dinosaur Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis

Damiano Landi, Logan King*, Qi Zhao, Emily J Rayfield, Michael Benton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Many dinosaurs may have shown ecological differentiation between hatchlings and adults, possibly because of the great size differential. The basal ceratopsian Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis is known from thousands of specimens from the Early Cretaceous of China and these include many so-called ‘juvenile clusters.’ During the early stages of ontogeny, P. lujiatunensis underwent a posture shift from quadrupedal to bipedal, and a dietary shift has also been postulated. In this study, we make a 2D mechanical analysis of the jaws of a hatchling and an adult to determine the differences between the two systems and found some differences, but only modest. The adult was better suited to feeding on tough plant material than the hatchling, based on its higher values of absolute and relative bite forces and higher values of mechanical advantage, but there were no substantial shifts in jaw shape or function.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 25 Jan 2021


  • jaw mechanics
  • lever system
  • diet
  • dietary shift
  • ceratopsian
  • cretaceous

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