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Herbivorous Dinosaurs "Mooing" In Documentaries

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858724.  Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:40 am Reply with quote

A bit of an odd question, I know.

In such documentaries as the BBC's rather poor Planet Dinosaur, I've noticed something a bit odd. The herbivorous dinosaurs tend to "moo" a little like our cows, or they sound a bit like Mr Fry in Blackadder.

I understand that analysis of their skulls allows experts to work out how they made sound, but is the "mooing" just an artistic stand-in or is there actually a reason why they all moo?

Sadurian Mike
858729.  Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:55 am Reply with quote

Palaeontology involves (amongst other things) reconstructing likely ways of behaving by using the fossil record and applying it to known animal behaviours. The theory goes that nature tends to use a similar blueprint for life.

The skulls of many hadrosaurs (the 'duck-billed' dinosaurs - the herd animals of their day) contain air chambers which have been decyphered as resonating chambers. The only real use for that would be to create a noise, and the most likely noise would be the honk/moo that documentary makers portray.

If we accept that the trumpeting of hadrosaurs sounds as it does (and it is only a theory, although one backed up by the evidence), then we can extrapolate that other dinosaurs might have also used a similar sound system by looking at present-day herbivores that share an ecosystem. Gnus, zebra and antelope all use a broadly similar type of noise - the sort of nasal honk/bray/moo that we see portrayed as being employed by the dinos.

Of course, it is possible that they all used high-pitched squeaks, but palaeontologists try to deduce from available evidence rather than just from what might have been.

860257.  Sat Oct 29, 2011 3:36 am Reply with quote

Obviously as animals become bigger the pitch of the noises they make tend to lower, to the extent that elephants often communicate using infrasound inaudible to humans. As some dinosaurs had the bodymass of a herd of elephants maybe we wouldn't be able to hear their calls at all?

860263.  Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:18 am Reply with quote

The other thing that gets me is the feather question.

Given the paucity of fossil evidence, how do we know that the Stegosaurus (for example) didn't have beautiful plumage (or down) and a comb like a chicken?

What kinds of integumentary dinosaur structure might we be missing?

861187.  Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:35 pm Reply with quote

Apologies for not replying earlier! I appreciate the answers.

So, to boil it down, it's to do with their skulls and size? Larger they are, generally the sound will be deeper? Awesome, thanks!


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