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Flight-Ready Brain Already in Non-Avian Dinosaurs

avain-brain-illustration, AMNH-M. EllisonNew research provides evidence that dinosaurs evolved the brainpower necessary for flight well before they actually took to the air as birds. Based on high-resolution X-ray computed tomographic (CT) scans, the study, published today in Nature, takes a comprehensive look at the so-called “bird brain.”
Contrary to the cliché, the term describes a relatively enlarged brain that has the capacity required for flight and was present in one of the earliest known birds, Archaeopteryx. In the new study, scientists reveal that at least a few non-avian dinosaurs had brains that were as large or larger than that of Archaeopteryx, indicating that some dinosaurs already suspected of possessing flight capability would have had the neurological hardwiring necessary for this behavior.
Archaeopteryx has always been set up as a uniquely transitional species between feathered dinosaurs and modern birds, a halfway point,” said lead author Amy Balanoff, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History and a postdoctoral researcher at Stony Brook University. “But by studying the cranial volume of closely related dinosaurs, we learned that Archaeopteryx might not have been so special.”
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T-Rex Was A Hunter

 

Artist: Dr. Mark A. Garlick Contact: mag@markgarlick.com Homepage: http://www.space-art.co.uk http://www.markgarlick.com This image is copyright© Mark A. Garlick and has been used with permission. Please do not use this image in any way whatsoever without first contacting the artist.

Artist: Dr. Mark A. Garlick

Tyrannosaurus rex has long been popular with kids and moviemakers as the most notorious, vicious killing machine to roam the planet during the age of the dinosaurs.
So, it may come as a shock that for more than a century some paleontologists have argued that T. rex was a scavenger, not a true predator – more like a vulture than a lion. Indeed, a lack of definitive fossil proof of predation in the famous theropod has stirred controversy among scientists – until now.
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Psittacosaurus Switched from 4 Feet to 2

The_Childrens_Museum_of_Indianapolis_-_Psittacosaurus_skeleton_castTracking the growth of dinosaurs and how they changed as they grew is difficult. Using a combination of biomechanical analysis and bone histology, palaeontologists from Beijing, Bristol, and Bonn have shown how one of the best-known dinosaurs switched from four feet to two as it grew.

Psittacosaurus, the ‘parrot dinosaur’ is known from more than 1000 specimens from the Cretaceous, 100 million years ago, of China and other parts of east Asia. As part of his PhD thesis at the University of Bristol, Qi Zhao, now on the staff of the Institute for Vertebrate Paleontology in Beijing, carried out the intricate study on bones of babies, juveniles and adults.
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Dinosaurs, Diets and Ecological Niches

Artist: Julius T. Csotonyi Contact: julius.csotonyi@gmail.com Homepage: http://www.csotonyi.com This image is used by permission and is Copyright© of Julius T. Csotonyi.

Artist: Julius T. Csotonyi

A new study by a Canadian Museum of Nature scientist helps answer a long-standing question in palaeontology — how numerous species of large, plant-eating dinosaurs could co-exist successfully over geological time. Dr. Jordan Mallon, a post-doctoral fellow at the museum, tackled the question by measuring and analyzing characteristics of nearly 100 dinosaur skulls recovered from the Dinosaur Park Formation in Alberta, Canada. The specimens now reside in major fossil collections across the world, including the collections of the Canadian Museum of Nature. The work was undertaken as part of his doctoral thesis at the University of Calgary under the supervision of Dr. Jason Anderson.
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High Tooth Replacement Rates in Sauropods Meant Success

skull-of-diplodocus-longus-amnh-969-from-bone-cabin-quarry-north-of-medicine-bow-wyomingRapid tooth replacement by sauropods, the largest dinosaurs in the fossil record, likely contributed to their evolutionary success, according to a research paper by Stony Brook University paleontologist Michael D’Emic, PhD, and colleagues. Published in PLOS ONE, the study also hypothesizes that differences in tooth replacement rates among the giant herbivores likely meant their diets varied, an important factor that allowed multiple species to share the same ecosystems for several million years.
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New Evidence for Warm-Blooded Dinosaurs

Hind limb, Pontzer H, Allen V, Hutchinson JR. Biomechanics of Running Indicates Endothermy in Bipedal Dinosaurs.University of Adelaide research has shown new evidence that dinosaurs were warm-blooded like birds and mammals, not cold-blooded like reptiles as commonly believed.

In a paper published in PLoS ONE, Professor Roger Seymour of the University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, argues that cold-blooded dinosaurs would not have had the required muscular power to prey on other animals and dominate over mammals as they did throughout the Mesozoic period.
“Much can be learned about dinosaurs from fossils but the question of whether dinosaurs were warm-blooded or cold-blooded is still hotly debated among scientists,” says Professor Seymour.
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Allosaurus Fed Like A Giant Falcon

Allosaurus feedingThe mighty T. rex may have thrashed its massive head from side to side to dismember prey, but a new study shows that its smaller cousin Allosaurus was a more dexterous hunter and tugged at prey more like a modern-day falcon.
“Apparently one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to dinosaur feeding styles,” said Ohio University paleontologist Eric Snively, lead author of the new study published today inPalaeontologia Electronica. “Many people think of Allosaurus as a smaller and earlier version of T. rex, but our engineering analyses show that they were very different predators.”
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Microraptor Was A Diverse Hunter

Microraptor eats a fish, Emily WilloughbyUniversity of Alberta-led research reveals that Microraptor, a small flying dinosaur was a complete hunter, able to swoop down and pickup fish as well as its previously known prey of birds and tree dwelling mammals.
University of Alberta paleontology graduate student Scott Persons says new evidence of Microrpator‘s hunting ability came from fossilized remains in China. “We were very fortunate that this Microraptor was found in volcanic ash and its stomach content of fish was easily identified.”
Prior to this, paleontologists believed microraptors which were about the size of a modern day hawk, lived in trees where they preyed exclusively on small birds and mammals about the size of squirrels.
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Dino Arms Led To Wings

Flight_stages, Lucas, Frederic A.Many dinosaurs, like T. rex, had scrawny arms, but paleontologists have discovered that as dinosaurs gradually evolved bigger arms, they began to stand and move more like birds.
The change, documented in the journal Nature, passed on to the descendants of dinosaurs – birds themselves.
“Our study shows how mass was allocated to the forelimbs, starting in non-flying dinosaurs, to turn them into longer, heavier, more muscular wings that became more and more effective for flapping during flight,” co-author John Hutchinson of the Royal Veterinary College’s Structure and Motion Lab.
Hutchinson and his colleagues used digitizing technology to create 3D images of the skeletons of 17 archosaurs, a group that included living crocodiles and birds as well as extinct dinosaurs. The researchers then digitally added flesh around the skeletons to estimate the overall shape of the body as well as the individual body parts, such as the head, forelimbs and tail.
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Dinosaur Ancestors Gain Ground After Mass Extinction

Asilisaurus, Marlene DonnellyMany scientists have thought that dinosaur predecessors missed the race to fill habitats emptied when nine out of 10 species disappeared during Earth’s largest mass extinction, approximately 252 million years ago. The thinking was based on fossil records from sites in South Africa and southwest Russia.  It turns out that scientists may have been looking for the starting line in the wrong places. Newly discovered fossils from 10 million years after the mass extinction reveal a lineage of animals thought to have led to dinosaurs taking hold in Tanzania and Zambia in the mid-Triassic period, many millions of years before dinosaur relatives were seen in the fossil record elsewhere on Earth.
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