New tool shows dinosaurs lighter than thought

June 6th, 2012 - 3:01 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 6 (IANS) Scientists have developed a tool to measure the weight and size of dinosaurs precisely and discovered they are not as heavy as previously thought.

Biologists used lasers to measure the minimum amount of skin required to wrap around the skeletons of modern-day mammals, including reindeer, polar bears, giraffes and elephants.

They discovered that the animals had almost exactly 21 percent more body mass than the minimum skeletal ’skin and bone’ wrap volume, and applied this to a giant Brachiosaur skeleton in Berlin’s Museum fur Naturkunde, the journal Biology Letters reported.

Previous estimates of this Brachiosaur’s weight have varied, with estimates as high as 80 tonnes, but the Manchester team’s calculations reduced that figure to just 23 tonnes. The team says the new technique will apply to all dinosaur weight measurements, according to a university statement.

Bill Sellers from Manchester said: “One of the most important things palaeobiologists need to know about fossilised animals is how much they weighed. This is surprisingly difficult, so we have been testing a new approach.

“We laser scanned various large mammal skeletons, including polar bear, giraffe and elephant, and calculated the minimum wrapping volume of the main skeletal sections.

“We showed that the actual volume is reliably 21 percent more than this value, so we then laser scanned the Berlin Brachiosaur, Giraffatitan brancai, calculating the skin and bone wrapping volume and added 21 percent.

“We found that the giant herbivore weighed 23 tonnes, supporting the view that these animals were much lighter than traditionally thought,” said Sellers.

Sellers, based in Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences, explained that body mass was a critical parameter used to constrain biomechanical and physiological traits of organisms.

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