This tiny dinosaur hunted in the dark and heard better than an owl - CNN
May 06, 2021 1 min, 32 secs
It's one of the findings of two ground-breaking studies published Thursday that examined and reconstructed the inner ears of ancient fossilized beasts and compared them with the ear canals of living animals.

If you are able to reconstruct its shape, you can reasonably draw conclusions about the actual behavior of extinct animals in a way that is almost unprecedented," said Bhullar, an assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences and an assistant curator at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.

Both studies used computerized tomography (CT) scanning technology to peer through the rock and bone to visualize and model the inner ear, which is located deep within an animal's skull.

Keck Science Center at Claremont McKenna, Pitzer and Scripps colleges, collaborated with a team of international researchers to collect detailed information on the relative size of the eyes and inner ears of nearly 100 living bird and extinct dinosaur species.

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Using CT scanning technology to determine its three-dimensional shape, Bhullar's study compared the inner ear of 128 different living and fossilized animals including Hesperornis, an 85-million-year old birdlike species that has teeth and a beak; the Velociraptor; and the flying pterosaur Anhanguera.

The researchers found clusters of different species with similar inner ear traits.

Living animals in this group have a very complex vocal repertoire, explained Bhullar, who said that the common ancestors of crocodiles and birds also likely sang.

While this could be explained as an evolutionary adaption for locating prey, avoiding predators or communication, the authors said their analysis suggested that it was more likely linked to parental care -- allowing the creatures to respond to the high-pitched calls of their offspring to gain their attention (think chirping baby birds in a nest).

Recent technological advances, like the CT scanning used in these studies, are providing scientists with more opportunities for future findings, Witmer said.

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