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Rebuilding the head of an armoured dinosaur

September 30, 2011

A University of Alberta-led research team has taken a rare look inside the skull of a dinosaur and come away with unprecedented details on the brain and nasal passages of the 72 million year old animal.

Lead researcher Tetsuto Miyashita, a U of A master's student in paleontology, examined the armoured skull of a Euoplocephalus, a six-metre long plant eater. The skull, which had been sitting in the U of A's paleontology collection, was broken, allowing Miyashita and his colleagues a unique view of the interior nasal cavities and details of blood vessels.

The researchers obtained CT scans from undamaged Euoplocephalus skulls to reconstruct the twisted, looping nasal passages and brain chamber. The team concluded Euoplocephalus had good senses of smell and hearing.

The researchers say the entire brain of a Euoplocephalus would fit inside a coffee mug, but the size was not small for a dinosaur. The dinosaur may have generated sound through its looping nasal passages, enabling it to communicate with other Euoplocephalus. The reconstructed inner ear was tuned for this "nasal roar" because the length of the ear indicates that the dinosaur could pick up low-frequency sounds.

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A research paper was written by Miyashita, his U of A colleague Victoria Arbour, Lawrence Witmer from Ohio University and U of A supervisor Philip Currie. The research was published in the Sept. 29 edition of the Journal of Anatomy.

Links to videos showing skull reconstructions of Euoplocephalus. Video supplied by research colleagues at the University of Ohio:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSe0IUQ-FCs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZfvo_xaTT4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwTiJ3clQnU

University of Alberta


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