UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Throughout its history, animals had to develop a variety of, sometimes unexpected, thermoregulation strategies.
A group of researchers from several American universities put forward an interesting suggestion that huge tyrannosaurs maintained a comfortable temperature for their bodies due to the likeness of “conditioners” in their heads.
An unusual paired anatomical formation in the skull of an extinct creature prompted such an idea of the researchers. It was previously thought that openings called dorso-temporal fenestras (i.e., the back-temporal windows) were filled with muscles that control a powerful jaw.
However, anatomist Casey Holliday ( Casey Holliday ) from the University of Missouri sure that this theory was not completely folding.
“This is a very atypical arrangement for the muscle: start from the [bones] of the jaw, make a 90-degree turn and stretch along the entire cranial vault,” Holliday explains his position in a university press release .
A thorough anatomical study of the dorso-temporal fenestra showed that they probably contained tissues rich in fat and blood vessels.
Scientists suggested that these structures served as a kind of thermostat: they heated or cooled the blood flowing through them, thereby ensuring a comfortable temperature of the whole body of the tyrannosaurus.
This assumption is quite logical, because there are similar windows in turtles and other creatures: crocodiles, lizards , birds and hatteria . By the way, experts attribute all owners of such an anatomical feature to a single group of diapsids .
To dispel doubts about the purpose of the mysterious holes, the team analyzed various skulls of diapsids. It turned out that the most similar to tyrex device fenestra have modern representatives of the crocodile squad.
Therefore, armed with thermal imaging cameras, the researchers went to one of the zoological parks to study a group of alligators .
Since these creatures are cold-blooded, their body temperature is unstable and depends on the ambient temperature, and the processes of thermoregulation in the body are very different from those of warm-blooded animals.
Thermal imagers showed researchers a curious picture. When it became cool outside, large bright spots appeared in the area of dorso-temporal fenestra, indicating an increase in temperature. So alligators kept warm. And with an increase in the external temperature, the openings taken on the thermal imager darkened (as if “turned off”).
According to the authors of the work, such a picture is consistent with previous data on the cross circulatory system of alligators or, in other words, the presence of an “internal thermostat”.
By the way, such a “thermostat” is just one way of adapting to changing ambient temperatures. In their previous materials, Observatory , they described in detail another unusual thermoregulatory “adaptation” of large dinosaurs – ankylosaurus.
True, experts cannot yet clearly say whether dinosaurs in general (and tyrannosaurs in particular) were warm-blooded or cold-blooded . This topic is still the subject of heated scientific discussions.
Be that as it may, the new study, the authors are sure, gives every reason to believe that the fenestra were not places of muscle attachment (as was considered the last hundred years), but served as a regulator of the body temperature of ancient predators.
Experts note that further research will be required to determine the exact function of these anatomical structures.
The results of observations of American scientists are published in the specialized publication The Anatomical Record.
We add that the authors of Vesti.Nauka wrote about another unusual physiological feature of dinosaurs, as well as how scientists measured the body temperature of a titanosaurus.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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