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DINOSAUR CREST STIRS DEBATE OVER BODY TEMPERATURE



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Anyone know where I can see a photo of this crest online?

Clay Olson
---------------------
Forwarded message:
From:   NewsHound@sjmercury.com (NewsHound)
To:     clayolson@aol.com
Date: 96-10-31 13:41:45 EST

Selected by your NewsHound profile entitled "MISC PROFILE". The selectivity
score was 28 out of 100.

Dinosaur Crest Stirs Debate over Body Temperature
By MARTHA MENDOZA

Associated Press Writer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A 4-foot-long crest protruding from a fossil
dinosaur skull found in the badlands of northwestern New Mexico is prodding
paleontologists in their debate over the creature's body temperature.

``It looks like there was a lot of heat exchange going on with this crest. To
me, that suggests it was cold-blooded,'' said Tom Williamson, a New Mexico
Museum of Natural History paleontologist who led the expedition team that
found the Parasaurolophus skull last year.

But Robert Sullivan, the senior curator at The State Museum of Pennsylvania
who found the 75 million-year-old duck-billed skull, said it suggests a
warmer creature.

``My theory is that this dinosaur may have been warm-blooded, and may have
been using this crest like an elephant uses its ears, to cool itself off,''
he said.

Sullivan found the nearly intact fossil skull near Farmington, about 180
miles northwest of Albuquerque.

The crest rises four feet from the back of the dinosaur's skull, a huge,
curved, hollow tusk sweeping up and behind the creature. Its purpose remains
a subject of debate. Some researchers say it was a horn for communicating.

Sullivan recently offered a different explanation to the Society of
Vertebrate Paleontology. He said it may have acted as a radiator, cooling
down -- or warming up -- the dinosaur.

``We definitely have proof that the Parasaurolophus had a highly vascularized
upper crest,'' he said during a telephone interview. ``We suspect that it
played some role in thermal regulation.''

As evidence, Sullivan pointed to an intricate web of nasal passages, looping
back and down in the crest. Researchers got a peek at the tubing last
December, when they ran the fossil through a CT scan machine donated for use
at Albuquerque's St. Joseph Medical Center.

John Ruben, a zoology professor at Oregon State University, recently
published research in Science magazine discrediting 20-year-old theories that
dinosaurs were warm-blooded.

He said the passages in the Parasaurolophus crest are too narrow to allow
enough air through them to affect a dinosaur's blood temperature.

``Pinch your nose with your thumbs until your nostrils are narrow and then
try to breathe. You see the problem?'' he said. ``I go with the theory that
this crest is about making noise.''

Jack Horner, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman,
Mont., who coauthored the Science article, agreed.

``I think it's some kind of resonating chamber for communicating. That's
it,'' he said.

Sullivan and Williamson, however, are not disregarding the horn idea. Working
with Sandia National Laboratories computer scientist Carl Diegert, they are
building a computerized simulation of the dinosaur's skull which they will
use to recreate the sound the ancient creature might have made.

They also plan to travel to Sweden and Canada to study two other
Parasaurolophus fossils.

Patrick Johnson, 11, a budding paleontologist who hangs out at the New Mexico
Museum of Natural History, said he has his own theory about the crest.

``I think it's for digging plants out of the ground, and maybe for scaring
away other dinosaurs,'' he said. ``They probably would brandish that crest
and chase them away.''

Sullivan admits they're all a bit stymied by the whole thing.

``You could argue both sides of this issue with the same evidence,'' he said.
``Who really knows?''

End advance for Monday, Nov. 4

AP-WS-10-31-96 1138EST


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