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Dinosaurs May Have Been More Svelte Than Thought

THURSDAY, June 7 (HealthDay News) -- Dinosaurs may have been lighter than previously thought, according to scientists who used a new technique to assess the weight and size of one of the ancient creatures.

The biologists at the University of Manchester, in England, used lasers to measure the amount of skin required to cover the skeletons of 14 large modern-day mammals such as elephants, giraffes and polar bears. They found a consistent ratio of skin volume to body mass (weight).

They used a similar technique on a skeleton of a giant plant-eating Brachiosaur in a Berlin museum -- calculating skin volume and using that to predict weight. Previous estimates of this particular specimen's weight have varied, with some as high as 88 tons. But this new technique suggests the animal weighed "just" 25 tons (50,000 pounds).

The findings, appearing June 5 in the journal Biology Letters, support the belief that dinosaurs were much lighter than traditionally thought, said study lead author Bill Sellers.

He and his colleagues also said this new technique can be used to assess the weight of all types of dinosaurs.

"Our method provides a much more accurate measure and shows dinosaurs, while still huge, are not as big as previously thought," Sellers said in a university news release.

More information

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has more about dinosaurs.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Manchester, news release, June 5, 2012

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