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Strong Tails of early Dinosaurs helped them move about on all fours and rise up on just their two back feet: Research

Bipedalism in dinosaurs was inherited from ancient and much smaller proto-dinosaurs.

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Toronto, March 4, 2017: Big muscles in the tails of early dinosaurs helped them move about on all fours and rise up on just their two back feet, new research suggests.

Bipedalism in dinosaurs was inherited from ancient and much smaller proto-dinosaurs.

The trick to this evolution is in their tails, said lead study author Scott Persons, postdoctoral fellow at University of Alberta in Canada.

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“The tails of proto-dinosaurs had big, leg-powering muscles,” Persons said.

“Having this muscle mass provided the strength and power required for early dinosaurs to stand on and move with their two back feet. We see a similar effect in many modern lizards that rise up and run bipedally,” Persons added.

Over time, proto-dinosaurs evolved to run faster and for longer distances.

Adaptations like hind limb elongation allowed ancient dinosaurs to run faster, while smaller forelimbs helped to reduce body weight and improve balance, according to the study published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology.

Eventually, some proto-dinosaurs gave up quadrupedal walking altogether.

The research also debunks theories that early proto-dinosaurs stood on two legs for the sole purpose of freeing their hands for use in catching prey.

“Those explanations don’t stand up,” Persons said.

“Many ancient bipedal dinosaurs were herbivores, and even early carnivorous dinosaurs evolved small forearms. Rather than using their hands to grapple with prey, it is more likely they seized their meals with their powerful jaws,” Persons explained.

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But, if it is true that bipedalism can evolve to help animals run fast, why aren’t mammals like horses and cheetahs bipedal?

“Largely because mammals don’t have those big tail-based leg muscles,” Persons said. (IANS)

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Palaeontologists Find Similarities Between Ancient Dinosaurs And Birds

The new Alvarezsaurian dinosaurs are among the most bizarre groups of theropods, with extremely short, robust forelimbs with a single functional claw and gracile, bird-like skulls and hind limbs.

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Dinosaurs' faces
Dinosaur. Wikimedia

An international team of palaeontologists have found how a meat-eating species of dinosaurs, that share many similarities with birds, lost their fingers.

The fossil specimens of “Xiyunykus pengi” and “Bannykus wulatensis”, discovered in China, are an enigmatic group of theropods known as alvarezsaurs.

Their bodies were found to be slender, with a bird-like skull and many small teeth instead of the usual large, sharp cutting teeth of their meat-eating relatives.

“Alvarezsaurs are weird animals. With their strong, clawed hands and weak jaws, they appear to be the dinosaurian analogue to today’s aardvarks and anteaters,” said Jonah Choiniere, Associate Professor at the Wits University in South Africa.

Fossils, dinosaurs
Fossils. Pixabay.

However, “the new fossils have long arms and show that alvarezsaurs evolved short arms only later in their evolutionary history, in species with small body sizes. This is quite different to what happens in the classic example of tyrannosaurs, which have short arms and giant size,” said co-author Professor Roger Benson from Britain’s Oxford University.

According to the researchers, the alvarezsaurs did not always look this way. Early members of the group had relatively long arms with strong-clawed hands and typical meat-eating teeth. Over time, they evolved into dinosaurs with mole-like arms and a single claw.

Bannykus and Xiyunykus are important because they show transitional steps in the process of alvarezsaurs adapting to new diets, the researchers said, in the paper published in the journal Current Biology.

The new Alvarezsaurian dinosaurs are among the most bizarre groups of theropods, with extremely short, robust forelimbs with a single functional claw and gracile, bird-like skulls and hind limbs.

Also Read: Fossils of 400 Year Old Invertebrate Marine Species Found in China

These specialisations have led to a controversy about their phylogenetic placement, biogeographic history and ecological role in Mesozoic ecosystems, the team notes. (IANS)