Paleontologists have long debated the function of the strange, bony crests on the heads of the duck-billed dinosaurs known as lambeosaurs. The structures contain incredibly long, convoluted nasal passages that loop up over the tops of their skulls.
Scientists at the University of Toronto, Ohio University and Montana State University now have used CT-scanning to look inside these mysterious crests and reconstruct the brains and nasal cavities of four different lambeosaur species.
At the annual meeting of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology in Cleveland, Ohio, the team today announced new findings that suggest the crests were used for communication.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
"These scientists have used cutting-edge visualization and reconstruction techniques to show that duck-billed dinosaurs likely communicated via sound and signal, " said Adam Summers, program director in NSF's Division of Integrative and Organismal Systems.
"Trace fossils were once our main window into the behavior of long-vanished organisms," said Summers. "Now, it's clear that the reconstruction of hard tissues and associated soft tissue is a powerful tool for understanding behavior and physiology."
Some paleontologists have suggested that the crests heightened the sense of smell by increasing the surface area of the sensory tissue. Others have argued that they regulated temperature, and still others have speculated that the crests acted as sound resonators for communication.
"The shape of the brain can tell us a lot about what senses were important in a dinosaur's everyday life, and give insight into the function of the crests," said scientist David Evans, a paleontologist at the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto.
"It's difficult to infer the function of structures in an extinct dinos
|Contact: Cheryl Dybas|
National Science Foundation