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News Archive - March 2007
For a Big Beast, T-Rex Sure had Small Genes
Date: Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 13:00 PM (Eastern Time)
CNN reports about a recent study done on the size of the genome for 31 species of dinosaurs and extinct birds, concluding that the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex and its carnivorous cousins had relatively small genomes.
While dinosaurs have been extinct for 65 million years, researchers at Harvard University in Massachusetts and the University of Reading in Britain studied cells from fossilized bones to extrapolate the size of their genomes.
But don't worry, T-rex fans. Having a small genome doesn't imply inferiority. As the researchers noted, a lungfish has a bigger genome than a human.
The study in the journal Nature described significant differences between the major dinosaur lineages.
The type of bipedal carnivorous dinosaurs known as theropods -- like Tyrannosaurus, Allosaurus and Deinonychus -- had very small genomes in the range of modern birds, the study found.
The same was true for the extinct birds they studied, including the diving seabird Hesperornis, which lived during the age of dinosaurs, and the large, flightless, carnivorous Diatryma, which lived after the dinosaurs went extinct.
Yahoo! News and ScienceDaily report that a new dinosaur species was a plant-eater with yard-long horns over its eyebrows, suggesting an evolutionary middle step between older dinosaurs with even larger horns and the small-horned creatures that followed, experts said. The following is a excert from the article:
The dinosaur's horns, thick as a human arm, are like those of triceratops — which came 10 million years later. However, this animal belonged to a subfamily that usually had bony nubbins a few inches long above their eyes.
Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, published the discovery in this month's Journal of Paleontology. He dug up the fossil six years ago in southern Alberta, Canada, while a graduate student for the University of Calgary.
Ryan named the new dinosaur Albertaceratops nesmoi, after the region and Cecil Nesmo, a rancher near Manyberries, Alberta, who has helped fossil hunters.
The creature was about 20 feet long and lived 78 million years ago.
The oldest known horned dinosaur in North America is called Zuniceratops. It lived 12 million years before Ryan's find, and also had large horns.
For the rest of the Yahoo! article click here and the ScienceDaily article here