School of Medicine
Two separate and distinctive skills are necessary to find prey: Detection of its presence and determination of its location. Surface microscopy of the dentary of albertosaurines revealed a previously undescribed sensory modification, as will be described here. While dentary “foramina” were previously thought to contain tactile sensory organs, the potential function of this theropod modification as a unique localizing system is explored in this study.
Dentary surface perforations were examined by surface epi-illumination microscopy in tyrannosaurine and albertosaurine dinosaurs to characterize their anatomy. Fish lateral lines were examined as potentially comparable structures.
In contrast to the subsurface vascular bifurcation noted in tyrannosaurines (which lack a lateral dentary surface groove), the area subjacent to the apertures in albertosaurine grooves has the appearance of an expanded chamber. That appearance seemed to be indistinguishable from the lateral line of fish.
Dentary groove apertures in certain tyrannosaurid lines (specifically albertosaurines) not only have a unique appearance, but one with significant functional and behavior implications. The appearance of the perforations in the dentary groove of albertosaurines mirrors that previously noted only with specialized neurologic structures accommodating derived sensory functions, as seen in the lateral line of fish. The possibility that this specialized morphology could also represent a unique function in albertosaurine theropods for interacting with the environment or facilitating prey acquisition cannot be ignored. It is suggested that these expanded chambers function in perceiving and aligning the body relative to the direction of wind, perhaps a Cretaceous analogue of the contemporary midwestern weathervane.
Digital Commons Citation
Rothschild, Bruce M. and Naples, Virginia, "Apparent sixth sense in theropod evolution: The making of a Cretaceous weathervane" (2017). Faculty & Staff Scholarship. 1231.
Rothschild BM, Naples V (2017) Apparent sixth sense in theropod evolution: The making of a Cretaceous weathervane. PLoS ONE 12(11): e0187064. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pone.0187064