Monday, January 14, 2008

Dinosaurs Keep Getting Less Like Lizards

In school they taught us at Pound360 that dinosaurs were basically huge lizards. The name “dinosaur,” in fact, is Greek for “fearsome lizard.” But the more I read on the subject of dinos, the less like lizards and the more like birds they become.

A while back, we reported on how velociraptor skeletons showed evidence
the predators were feathered. Also, we learned last year that dinosaurs had air sacks, like modern birds, to help them extract more oxygen from the thin atmosphere of their time. And last summer, they found a giant “chicken-like dinosaur,” despite the theory that dinosaurs became more bird-like only as they got smaller.

Now,
new research reported by the BBC suggest dinosaur life cycles were similar to birds. According to a report from the University of California, dinosaurs appeared to reach sexual maturity early in life, like birds today, so they could reproduce before being killed by predators. On average, dinosaurs lived to the age of 30 and reached sexual maturity by age eight.

Such a short lifespan means dinosaurs grew fast, and according to an expert close to the UC study, “to do this you can't have the metabolism of a crocodile; you need to have the metabolism more of a bird or a mammal."

Scientists reached their conclusion after examining the bones of juvenile females showing signs of “egg-making” tissue, called “medullary bone,” also found in modern birds. Finding evidence of medullary bone in dinosaur fossils is pretty rare since it’s “only around for three to four weeks in females who are reproductively mature.”

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.