Learn node: dinosaur teeth and the reptile mouth

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Posted on 18th November 2008 by Judy Breck in biology | general science | paleontology | sciences

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This learn node features a tiny dinosaur with big canine teeth that the Natural History Museum reports shows for the first time how one of the earliest dinosaurs grew into an adult. The webpage explains:

The turkey-sized reptile called Heterodontosaurus lived around 190 million years ago in the Early Jurassic period and had an unusual combination of molar-like and canine teeth.

Reptiles usually have small same-sized teeth along the length of their mouth but Heterodontosaurus had 2 fang-like canines at the front.

The image posted here is from a video narrated by Dr. Richard Butler, a dinosaur expert at the museum and featured on the page linked above.

For nodes of related learning: An excellent overview article about Anatomy and Physiology of the Reptile Mouth is provided at PetEducation.com. For time frames for the dinosaurs, the big picture can be seen in the Chart of Geological Ages at Connexions.

Learn Node: Dinosaur sinus clues to bird breath

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Posted on 7th October 2008 by Judy Breck in biology | sciences

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Comparing the sinuses in some newly studied dinosaur bones from Argentina with bird anatomy, this learn node from the Public Library of Science lets students go online to peer over the shoulders of working scientists. The drawing is from Figure 1 in the article. In their recent work concerning the the anatomical relationships of dinosaurs and birds, the scientists here tell us:

In this paper, we describe a new large-bodied theropod from the Late Cretaceous of Argentina, Aerosteon riocoloradensis gen. et sp. nov., characterized by cranial and postcranial bones that are exceptionally pneumatic. Some of its postcranial bones show pneumatic hollowing that can be linked to intrathoracic air sacs that are directly involved in lung ventilation. As a result of an extraordinary level of pneumatization, as well as the excellent state of preservation of much of the axial column and girdles, Aerosteon helps to constrain hypotheses for the evolution of avian-style respiration.

For background on the general subject, the University of California Museum of Paleontology has an overview article: Are Birds Really Dinosaurs?