MISSOULA — Paleontologists can reconstruct the past by looking at fossilized dinosaur bones and footprints preserved in the soil. But now they have found a new way to uncover how these extinct animals behaved — by taking a look inside their skulls.
This edition of A Wilder View takes a step back in time to try and understand the complexities of dinosaur movement and even how they sounded.
Scientists are now using x-ray imaging to study the inner ears and eye sockets of dinosaurs to bring on a whole new viewpoint of how they behaved. The extinct animals had complex behaviors, just like the modern wildlife seen today, but fossils don't always reveal this detailed information.
Now with the help of three-dimensional scans of the inner ear, scientists have discovered clear patterns of movement like flight. They also found that certain dinosaurs had similar inner ears to early, flying birds.
These similarities reveal an evolutionary trait necessary for flying animals, questioning how flight evolved. This is quite revealing because flight requires complex movements and limb control. Even more fascinating, the 3-D scans provided insight into what dinosaurs may have sounded like.
The organs that actually produce sound generally decay soon after the dinosaur dies but the scans of the inner ear allows scientists to tell what they could hear, and therefore offer insight into what they may have sounded like.
The researchers found that early relatives of dinosaurs developed a longer region of the inner ear -- the cochlea -- which is used to hear high-frequency sounds. This most likely was initially used for mother dinosaurs to hear the squeaks and chirps of their babies.
This is like modern-day alligators and crocodiles as they parent their children.
The songs of birds you hear today may trace their musical abilities to the squeaks that small reptiles made as they hatched over 200 million years ago.