More or less complete and articulated skeletons of dinosaurs with a long neck and tail often exhibit a body posture in which the head and neck are recurved over the back of the animal. This posture, also known from Archaeopteryx, has been fascinating paleontologists for more than 150 years. It was called "bicycle pose" when talking with a wink, or "opisthotonic posture" in a more oppressive way of speaking.
A fossil of the Compsognathus longipes from the "Solnhofen Archipelago" shows the twisted posture often seen in dinosaur remains.
© G. Janßen, O. Rauhut, Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie
The latter alludes to an accessory symptom of tetanus, well known in human and veterinarian medicine. Usually, an "opisthotonic posture" like that is the result of vitamin deficiency, poisoning or damage to the cerebellum.
Basically, the cerebellum is a brain region that controls fine muscle movement, which includes the body's antigravity muscles that keep the head and tail upright. If the cerebellum ceases to function, the antigravity muscles will clench at full force, tipping the head and tail back, and contracting the limbs.
A syndrome like that as a petrified expression of death throes was discussed for the first time about 100 years ago for some vertebrate fossils, but the acceptance of this interpretation declined during the following decades. In 2007, this "opisthotonus hypothesis" was newly posted by a veterinarian and a palaeontologist. This study, generously planned, received much attention in the public and the scientific community.
Now, five years later, two scientists from Switzerland and Germany have re-evaluated the revitalized "opisthotonus hypothesis" and examined one of its icons, the famous bipedal dinosaur Compsognathus longipes from the "Solnhofen Archipelago" (Germany). It is widely acknowledged that this 150-millions-years-old land-living dinosaur was embedded in a watery grave of a tropical lagoon.
"In our opinion, the most critical point in the newly discussed scenario of the preservation of an opisthotonic posture in a fossil is the requirement that terrestrial vertebrates must have been embedded immediately after death without substantial transport. But consigning a carcass from land to sea and the following need of sinking through the water column for only a few decimetres or meters is nothing else" says sedimentologist Achim Reisdorf from University of Basel's Institute of Geology and Paleontology.
"Veterinarians may often have to do with sick and dying animals, where they see the opisthotonic posture in many cases. Vertebrate palaeontologists, however, who want to infer the environment in which the animals perished and finally were embedded have to elucidate postmortem processes and biomechanical constraints too" says palaeontologist Michael Wuttke from the Section of Earth History in the General Department for the Conservation of Cultural History Rhineland Palatinate in Mainz (Germany).
"A strong Ligamentum elasticum was essential for all long necked dinosaurs with a long tail. The preloaded ligament helped them saving energy in their terrestrial mode of life. Following their death, at which they were immersed in water, the stored energy along the vertebra was strong enough to arch back the spine, increasingly so as more and more muscles and other soft parts were decaying" conclude the researchers. "It is a special highlight that, in the Compsognathus specimen, these gradual steps of recurvature can be substantiated, too. Therefore, biomechanics is ruling the postmortem weird posture of a carcass in a watery grave, not death throes".Contact
• Dr. Michael Wuttke, Generaldirektion Kulturelles Erbe Rheinland-Pfalz, Direktion Landesarchäologie, Referat Erdgeschichte, Große Langgasse 29, 55116 Mainz, Deutschland. Tel. +49 (0)6131 201 64 00, E-Mail: Michael.Wuttke@gdke.rlp.dePublication
Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments 92(1), published online 8 February 2012 | doi: 10.1007/s12549-011-0068-y
Reto Caluori | Universität Basel
First research results on the "spectacular meteorite fall" of Flensburg
18.02.2020 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
The Antarctica Factor: model uncertainties reveal upcoming sea-level risk
14.02.2020 | Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung
The operational speed of semiconductors in various electronic and optoelectronic devices is limited to several gigahertz (a billion oscillations per second). This constrains the upper limit of the operational speed of computing. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg, Germany, and the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay have explained how these processes can be sped up through the use of light waves and defected solid materials.
Light waves perform several hundred trillion oscillations per second. Hence, it is natural to envision employing light oscillations to drive the electronic...
Most natural and artificial surfaces are rough: metals and even glasses that appear smooth to the naked eye can look like jagged mountain ranges under the microscope. There is currently no uniform theory about the origin of this roughness despite it being observed on all scales, from the atomic to the tectonic. Scientists suspect that the rough surface is formed by irreversible plastic deformation that occurs in many processes of mechanical machining of components such as milling.
Prof. Dr. Lars Pastewka from the Simulation group at the Department of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg and his team have simulated such...
Investigation of the temperature dependence of the skyrmion Hall effect reveals further insights into possible new data storage devices
The joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that had previously demonstrated...
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.
Streaming films and music, scrolling through social media, and using cloud-based storage services are everyday activities now.
After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.
"Our tools open up whole new chemical space for potential drug targets," says Huw Davies, Emory professor of organic chemistry and senior author of the paper.
12.02.2020 | Event News
16.01.2020 | Event News
15.01.2020 | Event News
19.02.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering
19.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy
19.02.2020 | Information Technology