In the last couple of weeks I’ve had two papers come out in PLoS ONE tackling different aspects of dinosaur ecology. In rather different ways both look at the morphology of various living clades and use that to build up an idea of what patterns are present and how dinosaurs fit into this.
The Musings is set more or less to idle these days, so I don’t want to say anything too extensive here, not least when I have blogged the most recent paper already on the Lost Worlds and Darren Naish has some very extensive coverage of the first one. Still, I don’t want this one to dry up entirely and with a dinosaur-keen audience, it seemed a good idea to get up at least a quick post on the two.
First off there’s a paper on claw shape and how this might, or might not, relate to possible climbing functions. The major results are somewhat equivocal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a lot of variation in claw shape (curvature and midpoint dorsoventral height) and that means the boundaries are blurred between those animals that climb from those that are predatory or based on the ground. In short, for most it’s hard to make any kind of confident predictions off of our analysis at least, but there is a lot of scope for further work, and at least some dinosaurs plot out clearly in one behavioural category and well away from the others.
Second, there’s the piece on dinosaur body size distribution. Here non-avian dinosaurs are shown to have a different pattern of body size distribution to various vertebrate clades both living and extinct, with dinosaurs having relatively few small species and a high number of large ones. This nicely fits with the idea that dinosaurs filled multiple niches as part of their ontogeny, with niches for small species being filled by juveniles.
I’ll keep it short and sweet with both being freely available to read as obviously all the details are in there.
Birn-Jeffery, A.V., Miller, C., Naish, D., Rayfield, E.J. & Hone, D.W.E. 2012. Pedal claw curvature in birds, lizards and Mesozoic dinosaurs – complicated categories and compensating for mass-specific and phylogenetic control. PLoS ONE, 7: e50555, 11p.