Reconstruction is based on studies of a spectacular fossil from China, preserved with skin and pigments intact
Forty researchers elbow their way to the front of the room. They whip out their cameras and mobile phones like palaeontological-paparazzi, and start snapping. Others hang back, hands on chins, to take in the animal standing on the table-top from different angles. They dispense approving nods, and converge to discuss their conclusions in hushed tones.
Its not like anything seen alive on Earth today: its the size of large turkey, but with a face like a Jim Henson puppet. The head is a shoe-box with eyes, the Frankensteinian flatness on top accentuated by horns sticking out horizontally from each cheek. A parrot-like beak juts out at the front. One researcher reaches out and dares to touch the broom-like bristles that erupt from its tail. Another leans over and studiously peers up at the animals bottom.
This was the scene at the unveiling of paleoartist Bob Nicholls new reconstruction of Psittacosaurus. Hailed as the most accurate dinosaur reconstruction ever, it is based on studies of a spectacular fossil from China, carried out by a team led by Dr Jakob Vinther of the UKs University of Bristol.