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Scientists use chickens and ostriches to reconstruct the gait of the dinosaurs

Posted February 22, 2018

We get to know stuff about dinosaurs by researching their bones. That can tell us a lot about how they looked, what they ate, when they mated and a lot of other details. But some things require a little bit more thorough testing. Now scientists from the University of Queensland and Queensland Museum are using domestic birds to reconstruct how dinosaurs were walking and running.

Despite all the specimens collected, we still have very little idea about how two-legged dinosaurs walked and ran. Image credit: stu_spivack via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

You may think this is all a bit silly, but in actual reality birds are close relatives to dinosaurs. They are tied together in evolution and studying one can tell a lot about the other. Obviously, birds are different from dinosaurs, so some experiments have to be done. Scientists invited a wide range of domestic birds, ranging from quail to ostriches, to participate in this study. They used force-plates and high-speed cameras to recreate the gait of the dinosaurs in birds. The information collected during these experiments was used to create a biomechanical computer simulation model.

This model allows visualizing how dinosaurs ran and walked as well as the speed they were capable of and what kind of forces were working through their legs. This research will have some important implications. Dr Christofer Clemente, one of the researchers in the study, said: “This modelling can have an immediate impact on how dinosaurs are portrayed in movies, documentaries and video games”. It may not sound like a terribly important thing, but the image of dinosaurs is actually quite significant in the scientific community. Inaccurate images create false assumptions that are difficult to get rid of. This study is the first to see how movement of birds could be used to predict movement of the dinosaurs.

Since the birds in this study had two legs, information collected during these experiments could be used to predict the movement of theropod dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor and Australovenator. Scientists can reconstruct the very mechanism of walking and running and see how it changed with the size of the animal. Transition between walking and running are also very interesting, because the change of the rhythm and leg placement could have impacted the speed of attack in carnivores. Finally, scientists will have a better idea of what kind of force could be exerted from dinosaur’s legs.

Dinosaurs are just cool and knowing more about them is always good. It will be interesting to see if the image of the famous Tyrannosaurus in movies will change because of some experiments with domestic chickens.


Source: University of Queensland

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