Reconstitution artistique de Shuvuuia deserti

This dinosaur was hunting at night

About 10,000 bird species are currently recorded, among them a few (few) have developed visual and auditory adaptations to track their prey at night. Did their distant ancestors, theropod dinosaurs, have adopted such changes? A comprehensive review of inner ears and seeing dozens of living and fossil species identified a tiny dinosaur that could hunt at night.

Like an owl

This research was conducted by an international team led by Jonah Choiniere from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and focused on listening to the length of the cochlear (lagina), the organ that allows the processing of incoming audio information. Comparison of different fossils has shown that some theropod dinosaurs such as tyrannosaurs and birds of prey have above-average hearing capabilities, and there is no doubt that they reveal their prey at a greater distance. But it’s the hearing organ, which has been reconstructed in 3D, from a little dinosaur from a family Alvarezsauridae, theropods close to the group of birds that researchers are most interested in. In fact, its cochlear is very oblong and oddly like a barn owl, an owl that is able to hunt in complete darkness by being guided by the sounds emanating from its prey. Baptized animal Shufuya sweets (“Desert Bird”), was discovered in the Mongolian desert and is about 70 million years old. It is a small theropod from a family Alvarezsauridae, two-legged feathers, the latter being the size of a chicken. In an article published in the journal, the researchers say that his auditory system indicates that he was able to perform the same performance as an owl, and thus to engage in a nocturnal activity. Science.

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Comparison of the shell of a barn owl (left) and a dinosaur. Attribute to him: Jonah Schoenier / Wits University.

Big pupils

A hypothesis reinforced by a vision examination Shufuya. For his arrest, the cruciform rings proved invaluable. These small concentric bones surround the pupil and make it possible to infer their size and thus calculate the amount of light that the eye can receive. It has no analogues in mammals and thus in humans. The ones in this dinosaur are relatively the largest among all dinosaurs and birds combined, indicating that it can have very good night vision. For the study authors, these nocturnal mink and hearing aids are adaptations to life in the desert. The extremely high temperatures during the day forced the animals to go out at night to do their various activities. Other anatomical characteristics also call for this explanation: The Shuvuuia have very muscular front limbs extended by one long claw in each hand. Engineering that allowed him to dig to search for burrows or dive into small islands of shrubs in search of prey. All of these characteristics are found today, to varying degrees, in animals that live in the same type of environment. And so it was actually adopted by some dinosaurs millions of years ago!

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