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Sauropods may or may not have had elephant-like trunks

It’s one thing to look at fossils to determine the size and general shape of a dinosaur, but trying to figure out external features that would have been shaped by soft tissue is another. Some scientists think sauropod may have had a trunk like an elephant, but because that would have been constructed from muscle and tendons, no one really knows.

Imagine an apatosaurus with a long, elephant-like snout. Plenty of people have. That’s because the nostril placement on sauropod dinosaurs is, in some ways, remarkably similar to that of trunked animals that live today. In both cases, the nostrils are large, and they’re located up around what we’d call the forehead, kind of smack between the eyes.

On the one hand, this is one of those things that it’s really hard to ever know for certain. We don’t have preserved soft tissue, so when we make models of what dinosaurs might have looked like we’re really going on clues from the bones and comparisons to living animals with similar bone structure. Because of that, it is somewhat reasonable to suggest that hey, maybe, sauropods really did look like grumpy diplodocus in the image above. It’s fun to speculate.

But not all speculations are created equal. In a fascinating post at the Tetrapod Zoology blog, Darren Naish explains why a superficial similarity to trunked animals isn’t enough to counteract the much-more prevalent evidence against sauropod trunks. One of the more interesting lines of evidence he points out is the fact that dinosaurs apparently lacked the facial which form the trunk in living animals. We know this partly because muscles leave their signature on bone, and Naish says there’s no evidence sauropods had the right facial muscles. It’s further bolstered by the fact that the animals most closely related to sauropods don’t have those facial muscles, either.

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  12. insufferablebastard reblogged this from vikingbitch and added:
    This theory pops up now and again, and is pretty much bunk. Junk in the trunk: why sauropod dinosaurs did not possess...
  13. windandwine reblogged this from vikingbitch and added:
    Their nostrils would finally make sence!
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