Education Pulling out the scales for dinosaurs

Pulling out the scales for dinosaurs

Watching the weight of the biggest animals to ever walk the Earth is no mean feat, especially when all they’ve left behind are fossilised bones.

Over the years, palaeontologists have used a variety of methods to approximate the mass of dinosaurs, but nobody knew just how accurate the results were, so they’ve prompted vigorous debate.

A new study, led by the University of New England, examined more than a century of data to uncover where the truth lay.

The research team compiled and reviewed an extensive database of dinosaur body mass estimates reaching back to 1905 to assess whether different approaches were clarifying or complicating the science.

They found that the different methods resulted in strikingly similar results.

Study leader Dr Nicolás Campione said the findings should give us some confidence that we are building an accurate picture of these prehistoric animals — particularly our knowledge of the more massive dinosaurs that have no comparisons in the modern world.

“Body size, in particular body mass, determines almost at all aspects of an animal’s life, including their diet, reproduction, and locomotion,” Dr Campione said.

“If we know that we have a good estimate of a dinosaur’s body mass, then we have a firm foundation from which to study and understand their life retrospectively,” he said.

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