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Holes in fossil bones reveal dinosaur activity

New research from the University of Adelaide has added to the debate about whether dinosaurs were cold-blooded and sluggish or warm-blooded and active.

Professor Roger Seymour from the University's School of Earth & Environmental Sciences has applied the latest theories of human and animal anatomy and physiology to provide insight into the lives of dinosaurs. The results will be published this month in Proceedings B, the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences), and can now be found online at:

Human thigh bones have tiny holes known as the 'nutrient foramen' on the shaft that supply blood to living bone cells inside. New research has shown that the size of those holes is related to the maximum rate that a person can be active during aerobic exercise. Professor Seymour has used this principle to evaluate the activity levels of dinosaurs.

"Far from being lifeless, bone cells have a relatively high metabolic rate and they therefore require a large blood supply to deliver oxygen. On the inside of the bone, the blood supply comes usually from a single artery and vein that pass through a hole on the shaft the nutrient foramen," he says.

Professor Seymour wondered whether the size of the nutrient foramen might indicate how much blood was necessary to keep the bones in good repair. For example, highly active animals might cause more bone 'microfractures', requiring more frequent repairs by the bone cells and therefore a greater blood supply.

"My aim was to see whether we could use fossil bones of dinosaurs to indicate the level of bone metabolic rate and possibly extend it to the whole bo

Contact: Professor Roger Seymour
University of Adelaide

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