What sounds did dinosaurs make? The answer may surprise you

This is because some birds share a common ancestor with dinosaurs.

What sounds did dinosaurs make? The answer may surprise you

New York Times

Researchers have discovered clues to the sounds extinct creatures might have made using what may be the oldest fossilized dinosaur's larynx. This fossil is an ankylosaur, an armored group of plant-eaters who were not closely related to birds. In 2005, this squat and spiky dinosaur (Pinacosaurus grangeri) was discovered in Mongolia.

Some of the stars of the next generation of blockbuster dinosaur films could sound more like birds and less like roaring lions. This is at least one possibility that was raised by new research in February. However, very little is known about dinosaur vocals.

A research team discovered clues to the sounds extinct creatures might have made from the fossilized first.


It is a dinosaur. It is an ankylosaur, an armored group of plant-eaters who were not closely related to birds. In 2005, this spiky, squat dinosaur (Pinacosaurus grangeri) was discovered in Mongolia.

Junki Yoshida is a paleontologist at The

Fukushima Museum

Japan's experts said that the discovery was unexpected because vocalization parts, such as the larynx (which is usually made of cartilage, but can sometimes be bony in certain animals), were not suitable for preservation as fossils. The vocal cords are located in the larynx, which is found in some animals near the top of the windpipe.

Yoshida's team looked at the evolutionary relatives of Cretaceous Cretaceous creatures to find out what dinosaurs might have said. This included birds and their closest cousins, the crocodiles.

Victoria Arbour (a paleontologist at The University of Toronto) said, "They kind of bracket what sounds we might expect."

Royal BC Museum

Victoria, Canada was not part of the new study.

She said, "It's safe to assume that dinosaurs make crocodile sounds." That's their base anatomy. The birds then evolved additional methods to produce sounds. They can alter the sound coming out of their throats in a more nuanced manner. Reptiles and birds have different ways to produce sounds from the organs surrounding their windpipes. The larynx is a sound-producing organ in extinct and living crocodiles. The syrinx is a separate organ that produces sound in birds. It sits near their lungs. Another organ is located close to their mouths and allows them to change up the sounds. Some birds can even create intricate songs. Yoshida and colleagues measured two parts of Yoshida's larynx. These would have supported muscles that open and close the airway. The ankylosaur had two parts, which were both bones. Their proportions were compared to those of dozens of reptiles and birds, such as turtles and geckos, by the team.

Yoshida stated that the part that forms the base for the ankylosaur’s larynx is very large in comparison to other animals. This suggests that the dinosaur could have opened its airway wide to emit loud calls that could reach faraway. He said that the other part of the larynx, which is a long pair bone, may have allowed the windpipe shape change to alter sounds. The researchers recently reported in the journal that this might have allowed ankylosaurs vocalize in a manner similar to birds.

Biology Communications


Arbour stated that people might think that these dinosaurs sounding bird-like means they were tweeting like meadowlarks. She said that although it's unlikely to be true, "they might have had more sounds than we might give credit for other ankylosaurs." Yoshida stated that there are still chances that dinosaurs made "chirping" and "cooing" sounds. He cautioned that it was too early to know what dinosaurs made. He said that even a single bird species can make a variety of sounds, and that there are many organs involved, including the nose and mouth, as well as a syrinx.

Julia Clarke is a paleontologist at The

University of Texas

Austin, who was not part in the study, found the analysis fascinating. She said, however, that the arrangement of the ankylosaur's larynx and nearby bones was not the same as in birds.

She said that only in pterosaurs can we find something similar to the bird-like condition. Clarke stated that it's unclear how structures analyzed by the team would allow an ankylosaur the ability to make different sounds. This is why birds don't use their larynxes. The hyolaryngeal organ, which she calls a hyolaryngeal-basket, allows them to move up and down to change their calls. The larynx is present in all tetrapods, which includes mammals, birds, reptiles, and reptiles that descend from four-limbed creatures. The anatomy found in the research is different for each animal, regardless of whether they are able to vocalize. She said that she doesn't know the meaning of any variation. She suggested that the larynx parts might have been more important in keeping food out of an airway, as they opened and closed it. Clarke also found that the ankylosaur's layout of similar structures was different from other dinosaurs. Clarke and her coworkers discovered a fossilized Syrinx around 67 millions years ago in an old bird. This was long before dinosaurs became extinct. It raises the possibility of some dinosaurs having them. However, it has yet to be found a fossilized Syrinx in an non-avian dinosaur. She said that the parts of the larynx found in the new study were likely to be due to the unique characteristics of the ankylosaur, rather than something that can be applied across all dinosaurs. There are many questions still to be answered about dinosaur vocalization. Clarke stated that "Ankylosaurs were strange." Clarke stated, "That's the main message."

This article first appeared in

The New York Times