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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dinosaurs were 'airheads', say scientists

By Daily Mail Reporter

Fearsome dinosaurs such as the Tyrannosaurus rex were actually full of hot air, scientists said.

A team from Ohio University found the brains of the predators had a surprising number of air pockets, and theorized that it would have helped them to catch bigger prey.

Researchers Lawrence Witmer and Ryan Ridgely used CT scans to examine the skulls of five dinosaurs in 3D, including the deadly T. rex.

They found the skulls had curving airways that extended from the nostrils to the throat, creating a large amount of air space. The dinosaurs also had several sinus cavities (similar to the pockets that give us sinus headaches). Overall, the amount of air-filled space was much greater than the brain cavity.

dinosaur

Full of hot air: The T-rex had more air space than brain cavity

'We always knew dinosaurs had relatively small brains, so we might regard them as being airheads, and we can see that's kind of true,' said Mr Witmer.

The researchers said the air spaces could have lightened the dinosaurs' heads by as much as 18 per cent, than if they had been fully solid structures.

T. Rex

Full of hot air: The T-rex had more air space than brain cavity

They estimated that a fully fleshed-out T.rex head weighed more than 1,100lbs (500kg) and would have weighed a couple of hundred pounds more without air.

The weight saving could have helped the predators to move around, put on more bone-crushing muscle and even take larger prey.

'Sinuses may be performing different roles in different species,' Mr Witmer said.

'Scientists have tended to focus on things such as bones and muscle, and ignored these air spaces.

'If we’re going to decipher the mysteries of these extinct animals, maybe we need to figure out just why it is that these guys were such airheads.'

The T rex lived on the planet between 68 to 65 million years ago and had a long heavy tail to balance the weight from its massive head.

Original here

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