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Brain structure provides key to unraveling function of bizarre dinosaur crests
Date:10/16/2008

d a mismatch between the external shape of the crest (which no doubt functioned as a visual display) and the internal shape of the nasal passages in closely related species, suggesting a special function for the nasal cavity. The portion of the brain responsible for the sense of smell was relatively small and primitive, indicating that the crest did not evolve to improve that sense.

Computer models done by other researchers suggest that the crests could have been used to make low, eerie bellowing calls that could have been used in communication, perhaps to call for mates or warn others of predators. The CT scans documented a delicate inner ear that confirms that the dinosaurs could hear the low-frequency calls produced by the crest.

"We were surprised to see just how large the centers of the brain associated with higher cognitive functions were," said Witmer, Chang Professor of Paleontology in Ohio University's College of Osteopathic Medicine. "We suspected that the crested duck-billed dinosaurs used both vocal and visual displays, but now we see that they had the brain power and hearing to pull off these behaviors."

When all the available information is put together, including the digital brain and ear casts, the evolutionary relationships of the species, and the growth pattern of the crest and its high degree of variability in different co-existing species, it supports the idea that the elaborate nasal cavity was likely used to produce sounds for communication. This study demonstrates the power of using an integrated approach combining 3D imaging, growth studies, and phylogenetic sampling to test ideas about the function and evolution of unusual structures in extinct animals.


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Contact: Andrea Gibson
gibsona@ohio.edu
740-597-2166
Ohio University
Source:Eurekalert  

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