Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dinosaur skull changed shape during growth

Date:
April 1, 2010
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
The skull of a juvenile sauropod dinosaur, rediscovered in museum collections, illustrates that some sauropod species went through drastic changes in skull shape during normal growth.

Diplodocus carnegii adult and juvenile feeding.
Credit: Reconstruction illustration: Mark A Klingler / Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The skull of a juvenile sauropod dinosaur, rediscovered in the collections of Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Natural History, illustrates that some sauropod species went through drastic changes in skull shape during normal growth.

University of Michigan paleontologists John Whitlock and Jeffrey Wilson, along with Matthew Lamanna from the Carnegie Museum, describe their find in the March issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The fossil offers a rare chance to look at the early life history of Diplodocus, a 150 million-year-old sauropod from western North America.

"Adult sauropod skulls are rare, but juvenile skulls are even rarer," said Whitlock, a doctoral candidate in the U-M Museum of Paleontology. "What we do know about the skulls of sauropods like Diplodocus has been based entirely on adults so far."

"Diplodocus had an unusual skull," said Wilson, an assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and an assistant curator at the U-M Museum of Paleontology. "Adults had long, square snouts, unlike the rounded or pointed snouts of other sauropods. Up until now, we assumed juveniles did too."

The small Diplodocus skull, however, suggests that major changes occurred in the skull throughout the animal's life.

"Although this skull is plainly that of a juvenile Diplodocus, in many ways it is quite different from those of the adults," Whitlock said. "Like those of most young animals, the eyes are proportionally larger, and the face is smaller. What was unexpected was the shape of the snout -- it appears to have been quite pointed, rather than square like the adults. This gives us a whole new perspective on what these animals may have looked like at different points in their lives."

The researchers believe these changes in skull shape may have been tied to feeding behavior, with adults and juveniles eating different foods to avoid competition. Young Diplodocus, with their narrower snouts, may also have been choosier browsers, selecting high quality plant parts.

The discovery also highlights the importance of museum collections for paleontological research.

"Fossils like this are a great example of why natural history museums like ours put so much time and effort into caring for our collections, said Lamanna, an assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. "This little Diplodocus skull was discovered in 1921, and more than 80 years passed before we recognized its significance. If the Carnegie Museum hadn't preserved it for all that time, the important insight it has provided into the growth and ecology of this dinosaur would have been lost."

The actual juvenile Diplodocus skull, as well as a fully restored, mounted skeleton of an adult, is on display in Carnegie Museum of Natural History's "Dinosaurs in Their Time" exhibition.

Funding was provided by the U-M Department of Geological Sciences and the Geological Society of America.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Whitlock et al. Description of a Nearly Complete Juvenile Skull of Diplodocus (Sauropoda: Diplodocoidea) from the Late Jurassic of North America. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2010; 30 (2): 442 DOI: 10.1080/02724631003617647

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Dinosaur skull changed shape during growth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100331141621.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2010, April 1). Dinosaur skull changed shape during growth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100331141621.htm
University of Michigan. "Dinosaur skull changed shape during growth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100331141621.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre

Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre

AP (July 29, 2014) Food scraps and other items left on the grounds by picnickers brings unwelcome visitors to the grounds of the world famous and popular Louvre Museum in Paris. (July 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
London's Famed 'Gherkin' Goes on Sale for 650 Mln

London's Famed 'Gherkin' Goes on Sale for 650 Mln

AFP (July 29, 2014) London's "Gherkin" office tower, one of the landmarks on the British capital's skyline, went on sale for about 650 million ($1.1 billion, 820 million euros) on Tuesday after being placed into receivership. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tourists Disappointed to Find Rome Attractions Under Restoration

Tourists Disappointed to Find Rome Attractions Under Restoration

AFP (July 26, 2014) Tourists visiting Italy at the peak of the summer season are disappointed to find some of Rome's most famous attractions being restored and offering limited access. Duration: 01:01 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins