FROM THE EDUCATION DESK
Greetings everyone! Halloween is over, Autumn is coming to a close and the beautiful winter season is just around the corner. Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. I have so many things to be thankful for. One of them is to be able to write this monthly newsletter to you and your family and wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday from all of us at the museum to all of you who are our members and friends. Come visit us soon!
Dinosaurs couldn’t stick out their tongues like lizards.
Dinosaurs are often depicted as creatures baring their teeth, with tongues wildly stretching from their mouths. New research reveals a major problem with this image. Dinosaurs tongues were probably rooted to the bottoms of their mouths in a manner very like alligators.
Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and the Chinese Academy of Sciences made the discovery by comparing the hyoid bones of modern birds and crocodiles with those of their extinct dinosaur relatives. Hyoid bones support and ground the tongue. They act as anchors for the tongue in most animals, but in birds these bones can extend to the tip. Comparing anatomy across these groups can help scientists understand the similarities and differences in tongue anatomy and how traits evolved through time and across different lineages.
The comparison process involved taking high-resolution images of hyoid muscles and bones from 15 modern specimens, including three alligators and 13 bird species. It also included small bird-like dinosaurs, pterosaurs and a Tyrannosaurus rex. In addition the research proposes a connection on the origin of flight and an increase in tongue diversity mobility.
The results indicate that hyoid bones of most dinosaurs were like those of alligators and crocodiles—–short, simple and connected to a tongue that was not very mobile. In most dinosaurs their tongue bones are very short. In crocodiles with similarly short hyoid bones the tongue is totally fixed to the floor of the mouth. Pterosaurs and living birds have a great diversity in hyoid bone shapes. The ornithischian dinosaurs had hyoid bones that were highly complex and more mobile. This group included triceratops, ankylosaurs and other plant eating dinosaurs that chewed their food. The group also put forth the hypotheses that if you cannot use a hand to manipulate your prey, the tongue may become much more important to manipulate your food. This research was published in the journal PLOS ONE on June 20, 2018.
The study made the point that tongues are often overlooked but that they offer key insights into the lifestyles of extinct animals.
Happy Thanksgiving Holiday!