Navigation Links
Were dinosaurs destined to be big? Testing Cope's rule
Date:11/2/2012

Boulder, CO, USA In the evolutionary long run, small critters tend to evolve into bigger beasts -- at least according to the idea attributed to paleontologist Edward Cope, now known as Cope's Rule. Using the latest advanced statistical modeling methods, a new test of this rule as it applies dinosaurs shows that Cope was right -- sometimes.

"For a long time, dinosaurs were thought to be the example of Cope's Rule," says Gene Hunt, curator in the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington, D.C. Other groups, particularly mammals, also provide plenty of classic examples of the rule, Hunt says.

To see if Cope's rule really applies to dinosaurs, Hunt and colleagues Richard FitzJohn of the University of British Columbia and Matthew Carrano of the NMNH used dinosaur thigh bones (aka femurs) as proxies for animal size. They then used that femur data in their statistical model to look for two things: directional trends in size over time and whether there were any detectable upper limits for body size.

"What we did then was explore how constant a rule is this Cope's Rule trend within dinosaurs," said Hunt. They looked across the "family tree" of dinosaurs and found that some groups, or clades, of dinosaurs do indeed trend larger over time, following Cope's Rule. Ceratopsids and hadrosaurs, for instance, show more increases in size than decreases over time, according to Hunt. Although birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, the team excluded them from the study because of the evolutionary pressure birds faced to lighten up and get smaller so they could fly better.

As for the upper limits to size, the results were sometimes yes, sometimes no. The four-legged sauropods (i.e., long-necked, small-headed herbivores) and ornithopod (i.e., iguanodons, ceratopsids) clades showed no indication of upper limits to how large they could evolve. And indeed, these groups contain the largest land animals that ever lived.

Theropods, which include the famous Tyrannosaurus rex, on the other hand, did show what appears to be an upper limit on body size. This may not be particularly surprising, says Hunt, because theropods were bipedal, and there are physical limits to how massive you can get while still being able to move around on two legs.

Hunt, FitzJohn, and Carrano will be presenting the results of their study on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 4, at the annual meeting of The Geological Society of America in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.

As for why Cope's Rule works at all, that is not very well understood, says Hunt. "It does happen sometimes, but not always," he added. The traditional idea that somehow "bigger is better" because a bigger animal is less likely to be preyed upon is nave, Hunt says. After all, even the biggest animals start out small enough to be preyed upon and spend a long, vulnerable, time getting gigantic.


'/>"/>

Contact: Christa Stratton
cstratton@geosociety.org
303-357-1093
Geological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Engineering technology reveals eating habits of giant dinosaurs
2. Fossil egg discovered in Lleida (Spain) links dinosaurs to modern birds
3. Dinosaurs were warm-blooded reptiles
4. Gaseous emissions from dinosaurs may have warmed prehistoric earth
5. Jurassic pain: Giant flea-like insects plagued dinosaurs 165 million years ago
6. Duck-billed dinosaurs endured long, dark polar winters
7. Researchers use blood testing to predict level of enzymes that facilitate disease progression
8. New Market Forecasts Available for Critical Global Biotechnology Testing and Screening Markets: Molecular Diagnostics, Hematology, Clinical Chemistry and Nucleic Acid Testing
9. As TB grows more difficult to control, vaccine candidate to prevent disease enters clinical testing
10. NIST focuses on testing standards to support lab on a chip commercialization
11. PETA files complaint with European ombudsman over animal testing for REACH
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/26/2016)... , April 27, 2016 ... the  "Global Multi-modal Biometrics Market 2016-2020"  report to ... ) , The analysts forecast the ... CAGR of 15.49% during the period 2016-2020.  ... number of sectors such as the healthcare, BFSI, ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... , April 15, 2016  A new partnership ... more accurate underwriting decisions in a fraction of ... competitively priced and high-value life insurance policies to ... With Force Diagnostics, rapid testing (A1C, ... data readings (blood pressure, weight, pulse, BMI, and ...
(Date:4/14/2016)... 14, 2016 BioCatch ™, ... today announced the appointment of Eyal Goldwerger ... Goldwerger,s leadership appointment comes at a time ... the deployment of its platform at several of the ... which discerns unique cognitive and physiological factors, is a ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... In a new case report ... detail how a patient who developed lymphedema after being treated for breast cancer benefitted ... change the paradigm for dealing with this debilitating, frequent side effect of cancer treatment. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 ... Hematology Review, 2016;12(1):22-8 http://doi.org/10.17925/OHR.2016.12.01.22 ... , the peer-reviewed journal from touchONCOLOGY, Andrew ... escalating cost of cancer care is placing an ... result of expensive biologic therapies. With the patents ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... quality, regulatory and technical consulting, provides a free webinar on Performing ... July 13, 2016 at 12pm CT at no charge. , Incomplete investigations are ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ReportsnReports.com adds 2016 global ... pharmaceuticals section with historic and forecast data along ... Complete report on the Cell Culture ... companies and supported with 261 tables and figures ... The Global Cell Culture Media Industry ...
Breaking Biology Technology: