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Dinosaurs Regulated Their Body Temperature With Elaborate Nasal Passage, Researchers Say

Oct 29, 2015 03:14 PM EDT
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An elaborate nasal passage allowed dinosaurs to cool of their large bodies so that their brains wouldn't overheat, researchers from Ohio University have revealed in a new study.

Like many modern mammals, birds, lizards and crocodiles, dinosaurs needed to regulate their body temperatures. That was no easy task given their size and girth which would have held on to more heat than smaller-bodied animals. To get around all that they evolved an elaborate and specialized nasal passage, according to the Ohio University news release. Essentially, nasal passages act like air conditioners: They take in warm air and expel cool air. In doing, so blood traveling to a dinno's brain would have been cooled.

For their study, researchers simulated the movement of air and heat through reconstructed 3D nasal passages of various dinosaur species. The nasal cavity is a large air filled space above and behind the nose.

"My work represents the first test of the hypothesis that the elaborated nasal passages of large dinosaurs functioned as efficient heat exchangers," Jason Bourke, doctoral student researcher at Ohio University and lead author of the study, said in the release. "For most dinosaurs that I looked at, there would have been a substantial amount of physiologically active soft tissues in their noses. This strongly suggests that dinosaur airways were more than capable of changing the attributes of respired air."

This research solves the long-standing mystery of how dinosaurs were able to regulate the temperature of their large bodies. Their findings were recently presented at the 75th Meeting of the Society of Vertebrae Paleontology.

"By having this blood detour through the nasal passages and dump some of that excess heat before reaching the brain, dinosaurs were able to keep their brains at an optimum temperature for their bodies," Bourke added in the release.

Their study was recently published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

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