Sunday, April 02, 2006

No Sauropod Proboscis

Paleoneurological evidence against a proboscis in the sauropod dinosaur Diplodocus. 2006. Fabien Knoll et al. Geobios 39: 215-221.

Abstract: The dinosaur Diplodocus has a single, relatively large external bony narial orifice that is positioned far back between the orbits. In some mammals, such as elephants and tapirs, the caudal position of the narial opening is associated with a proboscis, so it has been suggested that Diplodocus possibly also had a trunk. In elephants, the facial nerve is large as it emerges from the brain. A branch of this nerve and a branch of the trigeminal nerve unite to form the proboscidial nerve that supplies the muscles of the powerful and complex motor system of the trunk. In contrast to the situation in modern elephants, the absolute as well as the relatively small size of the facial nerve in Diplodocus (deduced from an endocranial cast) indicates that there is no paleoneuroanatomical evidence for the presence of an elephant-like proboscis in this genus.

But, to go back to where this work started be sure to read this article:

Nostril Position in Dinosaurs and Other Vertebrates and Its Significance for Nasal Function.2001. Lawrence M. Witmer. Science Vol. 293: 850 – 853.

Abstract: Many dinosaurs have enormous and complicated bony nasal apertures. Functional interpretation requires knowledge of the location of the external opening in the skin. Traditionally, the fleshy nostril of dinosaurs has been placed in the back of the bony opening, but studies of extant dinosaur relatives suggest that it is located far forward. Narial blood supply and cavernous tissue corroborate the rostral position in dinosaurs. A rostral nostril was, and remains, a virtually invariant rule of construction among Amniota, which has consequences for (i) nasal airstreaming, and hence various physiological parameters, and (ii) the collection of behaviorally relevant circumoral odorants.

Illo © Mike Skrepnick from HERE and originally commissioned by Larry for the above Science article.