Econstudentlog

Huge estimation errors – dinosaur edition

Scientists have discovered that dinosaurs may have been much lighter and sleeker than previously thought because of potential flaws in the equations used to calculate their weight.

The findings could force researchers to rethink many of their beliefs, particularly about giant plant eaters such as apatosaurus which had been thought to weigh up to 37 tons. The creature’s real weight was closer to 18 tons, according to new calculations.

“Palaeontologists have for 25 years used a statistical model to estimate the body weight of giant dinosaurs and other extraordinarily large extinct animals,” said Gary Packard, from Colorado State University, whose research will appear in the Zoological Society of London’s Journal of Zoology this week.

“We have found that the statistical model is seriously flawed and the giant dinosaurs probably were only about half as heavy as is generally believed.”

The research does not suggest that dinosaurs were shorter in length or height. These dimensions are clear from the size of their bones. Instead, Packard’s work challenges the depiction of many giant herbivores. Until now they have been shown as well-rounded, powerful animals, when they are more likely to have been skinny and muscular.

Such findings would affect more than just appearance. It would suggest that these animals were leaner and faster, needed less food and had significant differences in lifestyle from what was previously thought.

Here’s more, HT: Razib. No link to the study, which I would just love to read, as it will not be published until later this week.

I’m pretty sure these findings, if Packard is rigth, will have a profound impact on the field. As the article mentions, size is but one of several variables that need to be reestimated and -explained: A lot of the theory on behaviour, metabolism, thermoregulation ect. on the megafauna inhabiting the earth back then will also need to be rewritten.

June 22, 2009 - Posted by | biology, Paleontology

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