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Dinosaur Semicircular Canal Function

From: Ben Creisler

New in PLoS ONE:

Justin A. Georgi, Justin S. Sipla & Catherine A. Forster (2013)
Turning Semicircular Canal Function on Its Head: Dinosaurs and a Novel
Vestibular Analysis.
 PLoS ONE 8(3): e58517.

Previous investigations have correlated vestibular function to
locomotion in vertebrates by scaling semicircular duct radius of
curvature to body mass. However, this method fails to discriminate
bipedal from quadrupedal non-avian dinosaurs. Because they exhibit a
broad range of relative head sizes, we use dinosaurs to test the
hypothesis that semicircular ducts scale more closely with head size.
Comparing the area enclosed by each semicircular canal to estimated
body mass and to two different measures of head size, skull length and
estimated head mass, reveals significant patterns that corroborate a
connection between physical parameters of the head and semicircular
canal morphology. Head mass more strongly correlates with anterior
semicircular canal size than does body mass and statistically
separates bipedal from quadrupedal taxa, with bipeds exhibiting
relatively larger canals. This morphologic dichotomy likely reflects
adaptations of the vestibular system to stability demands associated
with terrestrial locomotion on two, versus four, feet. This new method
has implications for reinterpreting previous studies and informing
future studies on the connection between locomotion type and
vestibular function.