An unusual dinosaur has been shown to have a skull that functioned like a fish-eating crocodile, despite looking like a dinosaur. It also possessed two huge hand claws, perhaps used as grappling hooks to lift fish from the water.
Dr Emily Rayfield at the University of Bristol, UK, used computer modelling techniques – more commonly used to discover how a car bonnet buckles during a crash – to show that while Baryonyx was eating, its skull bent and stretched in the same way as the skull of the Indian fish-eating gharial – a crocodile with long, narrow jaws.
Dr Rayfield said: “On excavation, partially digested fish scales and teeth, and a dinosaur bone were found in the stomach region of the animal, demonstrating that at least some of the time this dinosaur ate fish. Moreover, it had a very unusual skull that looked part-dinosaur and part-crocodile, so we wanted to establish which it was more similar to, structurally and functionally – a dinosaur or a crocodile.
“We used an engineering technique called finite element analysis that reconstructs stress and strain in a structure when loaded. The Baryonyx skull bones were CT-scanned by a colleague at Ohio University, USA, and digitally reconstructed so we could view the internal anatomy of the skull. We then analysed digital models of the snouts of a Baryonyx, a theropod dinosaur, an alligator, and a fish-eating gharial, to see how each snout stressed during feeding. We then compared them to each other.”
The results showed that the eating behaviour of Baryonyx was markedly different from that of a typical meat-eating theropod dinosaur or an alligator, and most similar to the fish-eating gharial. Since the bulk of the gharial diet consists of fish, Rayfield’s study suggests that this was also the case for Baryonyx back in the Cretaceous.
Dr Angela Milner from the Natural History Museum, who first described the dinosaur and is co-author on the paper, said: “I thought originally it might be a fish-eater and Emily’s analysis, which was done at the Natural History Museum, has demonstrated that to be the case.
“The CT-data revealed that although Baryonyx and the gharial have independently evolved to feed in a similar manner, through quirks of their evolutionary history their skulls are shaped in a slightly different way in order to achieve the same function. This shows us that in some cases there is more than one evolutionary solution to the same problem.”
The unusual skull of Baryonyx is very elongate, with a curved or sinuous jaw margin as seen in large crocodiles and alligators. It also had stout conical teeth, rather than the blade-like serrated ones in meat-eating dinosaurs, and a striking bulbous jaw tip (or ‘nose’) that bore a rosette of teeth, more commonly seen today in slender-jawed fish eating crocodilians such as the Indian fish-eating gharial.
The dinosaur in question, Baryonyx walkeri, was discovered near Dorking in Surrey, UK in 1983 by an amateur collector, William Walker, and named after him in 1986 by Alan Charig and Angela Milner. It is an early Cretaceous dinosaur, around 125 million years old, and belongs to a family called spinosaurs.
Cherry Lewis | EurekAlert!
Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel
The Nagoya Protocol Creates Disadvantages for Many Countries when Applied to Microorganisms
05.12.2016 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering