Science Questions

Sun, 21st Nov 2004

Part of the show Cloud-dwelling Bacteria, & Ozone Holes

Question

Pat asked:

How can we tell what noises the dinosaurs make ?

Answer

The reason you hear those sounds on TV is to make it more interesting. We know dinosaurs probably made noises because they had very good sense of hearing. If you look at dinosaur fossil skulls, you can trace their ear canals and work out where their ears would have been and the kinds of sound they would have responded to. If they could hear sounds, they could probably make sounds. In the late 90's scientists put a fossil through a CT scanner to look at the bone structure. The headpiece was a series of intricately connected tubes a bit like organ pipes. They analysed the structure of these canals and airways, and used a computer to model what would happen if air were blown past. They found that the dinosaur could probably have produced low pitched rumbling noises that could have carried a long way. So what we use for dinosaur sounds on TV is what can be inferred from studying the shape of their fossilised remains, with a bit of artistic license thrown in.

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