Paleontologists have recently discovered something very interesting about an extinct dinosaur and the way it breathes. The image seen below depicts the creature, called the Heterodontosaurus tucki, breathing on a cool morning. Researchers found unusual rib and sternum bones in an extremely well-preserved fossil skeleton of the Heterodontosaurus tucki.
The creature was an ornithischian the size of a turkey and ate plants. Ornithischians are bird-hipped dinosaurs and include a group featuring duck-billed dinosaurs, frilled dinosaurs like the Triceratops, and armored dinosaurs like the Ankylosaurs. The fossils were discovered in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in 2009. They were later x-rayed, allowing scientists to reconstruct the skeleton digitally.
The models revealed skeleton features unseen in previous ornithischians featuring rib and hip bones connected by muscles to help animal breathe in a new way. The dinosaur breathed through the expansion of its chest and belly. The creature measured about three feet long from nose to tail and roamed in portions of South Africa about 200 million years ago during the Jurassic period. It’s one of the earliest species to be included in the ornithischian group.
Since it’s one of the oldest creatures in the group, it gives scientists clues about the evolution of features common among ornithischians but different from other dinosaurs. The skeleton the team discovered was nearly complete, including a group of tiny, slender abdominal rib bones called gastralia. Ribs of that type are found in modern crocodiles and other modern reptiles and have a role in respiration.
This creature is the first time they were discovered in ornithischians. Before discovering the skeleton, scientists thought that gastralia were absent from all ornithischians. Now they know that the features were lost in later ornithischians, and they know that early members of the group did something different with their bodies for respiration.