Dinosaur related to Tyrannosaurus Rex had bird-like breathing system
The remains of a new dinosaur that was a distant relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex has been discovered and could provide clues as to how modern birds evolved the ability to breathe.
The bones of the 10 metre-long predator, which weighed more than an adult elephant, were discovered along the banks of Argentina's Colorado River in Patagonia.
Paleontologists led by the University of Chicago's Paul Sereno, an explorer employed by the National Geographic Society, discovered the remains had air holes in the bones which showed that it had bellows-like lungs, similar to modern birds.
The new dinosaur is named Aerosteon riocoloradensis, which translates as "air bones from the Rio Colorado". Aerosteon, found in rocks dating to the Cretaceous period about 85 million years old, is a cousin of Allosaurus, which had gone extinct millions of years earlier and was replaced by tyrannosaurs.
Mr Serano, who published his findings in the Public Library of Science journal, said that among land animals, birds have a unique way of breathing and this provided evidence of how they evolved.
"The lungs actually don't expand," Mr Sereno said. "Instead, birds have developed a system of bellows, or air sacs, which help pump air through the lungs.
"It's the reason birds can fly higher and faster than bats, which, like all mammals, expand their lungs in a less efficient breathing process.
"This dinosaur, unlike any other, provides more direct evidence of the bellows involved in bird breathing," added Ricardo Martínez, a colleague from the Universidad Nacional de San Juan, Argentina.
"Its bones have telltale pockets and a sponge-like texture called "pneumatisation," in which air sacs from the lung invade bone. Air-filled bones are the hallmark of the bellows system of breathing in birds."
From the Telegraph.
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A new dinosaur species, Pachyrhinosaur lakustai, unveiled from Pipestone Creek, Alberta, Canada
A 3-D computer rendering of the skeleton of Pachyrhinosaur lakustai. Credit: Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Project
The fossils revealed a herd of dinosaurs that perished in a catastrophic event 72.5 million years ago. The animals are characterized by a bony frill on the back of the skull ornamented with smaller horns. They also had large bony structures above their nose and eyes which lends them their name: Pachyrhinosaurus (thick-nosed lizard). These structures probably supported horns of keratin.