Parasaurolophus was one of the strangest-looking dinosaurs. Its name means “crested lizard”. A huge, six foot-long crest stuck out of its head. Sometimes the males’ crests were even longer. The crest was longer than the dinosaur’s entire skull. Its nostrils went up through the crest and back down, forming four hollow tubes. No one exactly knows what the crest was used for. Some paleontologists thought that this dinosaur spent its time in the water, and breathed through its crest like a snorkel. But there were no holes at the top. Paleontologists now believe that Parasaurolophus lived most of its life on land. It probably was able to blow air up through its crest. This would have made a loud noise that could be heard for miles. It probably sounded like a foghorn. This would have been useful to attract a mate. It also had a dent in its back. This way, Parasaurolophus could lean its head backwards without hitting itself.
Parasaurolophus belongs to the hadrosaur family of dinosaurs. This means that is was an herbivore – meaning that it only ate plants - and it had a snout that looked like a duck’s beak. Parasaurolophus lived about 70 million years ago. It grew to be about 40 feet long, which is about the size of a bus. It was about eight feet tall at the hips. It weighed about two tons. It walked and ran on two legs, and was a pretty fast runner. It didn’t have heavy armor or spikes to carry around, so it was light. It probably walked on all fours to look for food, but then ran on two legs when it needed to move quickly. When it saw a hunting predator, it would run away. Parasaurolophus could see and hear well. We know this because its skull had large holes for its eyes and ears. It had a large space in its skull for a brain.
Parasaurolophus ate mostly pine needles, leaves, and twigs. It had a toothless, hard beak to chomp down tough plants. It could store its food in its cheeks and chew with its grinding teeth at the back of its mouth. Parasaurolophus moved about in a large group. The group spent a lot of its time at the near the water looking for food. When it was time to lay eggs, the group moved away from the water, so that the eggs could be better protected. Parasaurolophus bones were first found in what is now Canada. They have also been found in what is now New Mexico and Utah in North America.