A new study suggests that ornamented skulls were not just adornments for the mighty giants in the prehistorical ages. Scientists found a connection between the bony formations on the animals’ heads and their impressive sizes. Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops are just two of the dinosaur species that displayed spectacular ornamented skulls.
Researchers at the North Carolina State University were in charge of the new study. Their research reveals that dinosaurs which possessed horns, bony crests or knobs were more likely to develop into large sized animals up to twenty times faster than the specimens which lacked such adornments.
Scientists also noticed that this feature was common with theropods. Specimens which developed flight abilities and feathers tend to have simple heads. The team of specialists analyzed more than one hundred fossils from dinosaurs which had both ornamented and simple skulls.
Paleontologists determined that horns, bony crests or knobs were used by dinosaurs in their social interactions. Displaying their ornamented skulls would help them attracted the attention of a potential mate. The adornments were also quite useful when engaging in fights over prey or territory boundaries.
The results of the study point out that the therapods which weighted more than thirty-six kilograms (the equivalent of eighty pounds) would develop head ornaments, such as crests or horns. Experts account for twenty of the twenty-two dinosaur species which followed this rule. On the other hand, species which weighted less than that were less likely to develop horns or crests.
Scientists observed that once a species got its skull ornaments, its descendants would gain body size, to the point of turning into real giants. The transition phenomenon occurred every four to six million years. Acrocanthosaurus is one of the documented species of small-sized dinosaurs, and with it, no evolution of head ornaments was discovered.
Ornaments such as horns, crests and knobs are considered to be social signals. Specialists believe that there is a reason why dinosaurs covered with feathers didn’t display such head ornaments. Their theory is that flying dinosaur species already had their feathers to stand as social signals.
The new study on the decorated skulls of dinosaurs was published in Nature Communications. Terry Gates and Lindsay Zanno were the main specialists in charge of the research on the ornamented heads of dinosaurs. Out of the twenty-two species displaying such adornments, which one is your favorite?
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