Friday, March 20, 2009

DId big dinos have trunks?

There are a lot of theories filling in the gaps between our knowledge of dinosaurs. One (not the most scientifically important, but interesting nonetheless) is that the big sauropods might have had trunks, like an elephant's but shorter. In today's edition of the superb blog Tetrapod Zoology, Dr. Darren Naish takes aim at this idea. The concept arose because sauropods had dorsally located nostrils, placed close to where a modern elephant has them. As Naish points out, though, trunked mammals, current and extinct, have other adaptations needed for a trunk, such as a skull that narrows distinctly from the tip to just before the eyes. Sauropods do not. Nor do they have attachment points for the specialized large facial muscles needed to operate a trunk. Finally, they don't need a trunk: their extremely long necks put the mouth wherever it needs to be without a trunk for grasping limbs, etc. (Yes, elephants' trunks have many other uses, but foraging is where the whole trunk thing began.)

COMMENT: Well, it was fun to think about while it lasted, but really, dinosaurs are fascinating enough as they are. And we do have so much yet to learn.

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