- Aug 19, 2003
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Dinosaur breathing study shows that noses enhanced smelling and cooled brain
It's been millions of years since T. rex took its last breath, but a team led by Ohio University scientists is breathing life back into dinosaurs using high-powered computer simulations to model airflow through dinosaur snouts. The research has important implications for how dinosaurs used their noses to not only breathe but to enhance the sense of smell and cool their brains.
"Dinosaurs were pretty 'nosy' animals," said Ohio University doctoral student Jason Bourke, lead author of the new study published today in the Anatomical Record. "Figuring out what's going on in their complicated snouts is challenging because noses have so many different functions. And it doesn't help that all the delicate soft tissues rotted away millions of years ago."
To restore what time had stripped away, the team turned to the modern-day relatives of dinosaurs—birds, crocodiles and lizards—to provide clues. "We'll do whatever it takes," said Lawrence Witmer, professor in the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and principal investigator on the National Science Foundation's Visible Interactive Dinosaur Project, which funded much of the research. "We did lots of dissections, blood-vessel injections and CT scanning, but a major new tool was 3D computer simulation of airflow."
Bourke drew from a branch of engineering called computational fluid dynamics, an approach commonly used in the aerospace industry and medicine, to model how air flowed through the noses of modern-day dinosaur relatives such as ostriches and alligators. "Once we got a handle on how animals today breathe," Bourke said, "the tricky part was finding a good candidate among dinosaurs to test our methods."
The dinosaurs that best fit the bill were the pachycephalosaurs, or "pachys," a group of plant-eating dinosaurs best known for the several-inch-thick bone on the tops of their skulls which is thought to have served both as a visual display and as protection for head-butting behaviors like those of modern-day rams. It turns out that building all that extra skull bone resulted in ossifying soft tissues in other areas of the body—such as the nose. ...
http://phys.org/news/2014-10-dinosaur-n ... brain.html