Essay on The Debate Over Dinosaur Nostril Positioning

Essay on The Debate Over Dinosaur Nostril Positioning

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The Debate Over Dinosaur Nostril Positioning

Where should the nostril on dinosaur models be placed? Although it seems like a rather simple question, it is a topic that has been recently researched so that scientists can feel reassured in creating anatomically correct models of dinosaurs. Amniotes (a group which in the Triassic spilt into reptiles and synapsids and which include dinosaurs), have large nasal openings, but since the nostril is made up of flesh and cartilidge, it is almost always not preserved in the fossil record (Lauren and Gauthier 1996). These were often huge in dinosaurs, such as the sauropods, hadrosaurines, and ceratopsids, so that there are several places in which the nostrils could be placed. For many years, scientists have placed the nostrils on dinosaurs in the caudal position, which is located on the top of the head. The nostrils were placed in this location because it was thought in the mid nineteenth century that sauropods lived in water (Clarke 2001). This was believed because at the time, palenotolgists thought that sauropods probably weighed several tons, and that the animals could not have supported themselves on land (Rincon 2003). It was believed that having the nostrils in this position would help the dinosaurs to breathe easily, instead of having to lift their heads completely out of the water (Clarke 2001).

This idea was reinforced when a Diplodocus (a type of sauropod that lived in the late Jurassic) skull was found in 1884 that contained a large hole in the top of the head. Scientists believed that this hole contained the entire nostril (Witmer 2001; ). This positioning of the nostrils was used for many other models of dinosaurs as well, but when it was discovered that...

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Lauren, Michel and Jacques A. Gauthier. Tree of Life Web Project: Amniota. 1996

Miller, Greg. “Dinosaur Nostrils Get Relocated.” New Scientists 3 August 2001. 3
April 2004. <>

Rincon, Paul. “Gigantic Dinos ‘Floated In Water.’” BBC News 11 December 2003. 2
April 2004. <>

Whitlock, Kelli. “New Study Puts Dinosaur Noses In Their Place.” EurekAlert. 2
August 2001. 2 April 2004.

Witmer, Lawrence M. “Nostril Position in Dinosaurs and Other Vertebrates and Its
Significance for Nasal Function.” Science 293 (2001): 850-53.

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