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New study puts dinosaur noses in their place

ATHENS, Ohio To the average dinosaur enthusiast, it may seem like an arbitrary question: Where, exactly, were dinosaurs' nostrils? But according to a study that pinpoints a new position for the nostrils, the answer could help explain how the creatures found food, detected predators, reproduced and regulated brain and body temperature.

The study, reported in the Aug. 3 issue of the journal Science, will give many dinosaurs a new look: Nostrils once drawn on the top of some dinosaurs' heads now appear just above the mouth. And while that new face likely will capture wide public interest, for scientists, the impact is more than skin deep, said Ohio University paleontologist and study author Lawrence Witmer.

"The public has always been interested in dinosaurs because they're so huge. Scientists have been interested because dinosaurs really seem to stretch the bounds of physiological form," said Witmer, an associate professor of biomedical sciences and anatomist in the university's College of Osteopathic Medicine. "By looking at the noses of dinosaurs and their modern-day relatives, we've potentially been able to provide some answers to how these animals could have survived being so large."

The latest findings from his efforts to reconstruct soft tissues in dinosaurs, a study dubbed the "DinoNose Project"and funded by the National Science Foundation, place dinosaur nostrils a significant physiological distance from where scientists once thought the openings lay.

That misconception dates to the earliest recovered dinosaur fossils, many of which belonged to sauropods. The enormity of these long-necked brontosaurs some weighing as much as 70 to 80 tons was matched only by whales, so early paleontologists assumed sauropods also must have been aquatic animals. Nostrils high on the forehead would have allowed the dinosaurs to breathe while partially submerged. The assumptions were reinforced with the 1884 discovery of an intact skull of
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Contact: Kelli Whitlock
whitlock@ohio.edu
740-593-2868
Ohio University
2-Aug-2001


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