2021-07-10

Scientists scan 200 million-year-old fossils and reveal the evolution of dinosaurs’ breathing patterns

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In 2016, a scientist from the Institute of Evolution, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa We came to the European Synchrotron Radiation Center (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, the brightest source of synchrotron radiation, to conduct a special study to scan the complete skeleton of a small plant-eating dinosaur 200 million years ago. This dinosaur specimen is the most complete fossil ever found, and the species is called Heterodontosaurus tucki. This fossil was discovered in 2009 by the co-author of the research report, Billy De Klerk of the Albany Museum in Macanda, South Africa, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Scientists scan 200 million-year-old fossils and reveal the evolution of dinosaurs’ breathing patterns

Now this team of scientists uses scanning The new algorithm developed with ESRF scientists virtually reconstructed the skeleton of Heterodon with unprecedented details, thus showing how this extinct dinosaur breathed. This specimen represents a turning point in understanding how dinosaurs evolved. For a long time, paleontologists believed that all dinosaurs breathed like birds because they had similar respiratory anatomy. However, this study found that Heterodondon was not like this. It had paddle-shaped ribs and small toothpick-like bones, and its chest and abdomen were expanding in order to breathe.

Scientists scan 200 million-year-old fossils and reveal the evolution of dinosaurs’ breathing patterns(1)

Heterodon is the oldest and One of the earliest evolved ornithopod dinosaurs, this type of dinosaurs includes popular dinosaurs such as Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Hadrosaurus. Heterodontosaurus lived in the early Jurassic, about 200 million years ago, and survived an extinction at the end of the previous Triassic. Understanding how this dinosaur breathes can also help paleontologists figure out which biological characteristics allowed certain dinosaurs to survive or cause their extinction.

We have long known that the bones of ornithischian dinosaurs are fundamentally different from those of other dinosaurs. An amazing new fossil helps us understand why birds are so unique and successful. This research is the result of a long-term collaboration between paleontologists in South Africa and ESRF, which has developed non-invasive techniques for paleontological research. ESRFX rays combined with its high-energy beamline configuration makes it possible to scan this complete turkey-sized dinosaur.

This is a perfect example of the diversity of life on earth. Animals have many ways of breathing. What is really interesting about life on earth is that animals have different strategies to do the same thing, and we have just discovered a new breathing strategy.