New insights into the way that theropod dinosaurs walked the earth are providing another piece of the puzzle regarding our understanding of extinct animals and how they are portrayed in popular culture.
The Griffith University-led research, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface this week, has revealed that theropod dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus Rex (T-Rex), were more similar to birds than to humans in the way that they moved, a finding that goes against what was previously believed.
The work will be just one of the topics featured at next week’s XXVI Congress of the International Society of Biomechanics 2017. Jointly hosted and sponsored by Griffith University, the event is at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 23-27 July.
Dr Peter Bishop from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland used simple step width measurements of fossil footprints of extinct theropod dinosaurs from more than 210 million years ago and compare them with measurements made from modern bipedal humans and birds, the latter being the descendants of extinct theropods.
A total of eleven bird species were used, encompassing a wide range of sizes.
“By comparing the locomotive measurements in birds and humans, we could test the various aspects of their walking and running and compare it to that of the extinct theropod dinosaurs,” says Dr Bishop.
“We found that humans exhibited an abrupt decrease at the walk-run transition, whereas in non-avian and avian theropods, step width decreased gradually with speed with considerable variability among avians.
“These differences reflect a discontinuous locomotor type of walk in humans and a continuous locomotor walk in theropods, where walking smoothly grades into running as speed increases.”
Validation of modern techniques
Dr Bishop says the study findings validate the modern techniques which can be applied to demonstrate what extinct animals were like and also provide insights for how we depict them in today’s world.
“One of the implications for this research is that we should ensure that these types of dinosaurs are portrayed accurately within movies, animation, computer simulations and other forms of popular culture that have a need to reconstruct them.
“Another implication is that the unique locomotor behaviour of modern birds has great antiquity, having first started to appear in their extinct theropod ancestors, before the birds themselves appeared.
“While these findings are just one piece of an ever expanding puzzle, we can also build on this research for future knowledge.”
For more information on the program for the XXVI Congress of the International Society of Biomechanics 2017, please visit http://www.biomech2017.com/index.php