If you think about a dinosaur, you probably imagine it with its mouth open and its tongue sticking out. However, this is far from the truth, according to researchers. They discovered these ancient reptiles most likely didn’t have flexible tongues, as they were actually attached to their lower jaws. Therefore, they were more similar to crocodiles than to reptiles.
Were dinosaur tongues really sticking out of their mouths?
Researchers were curious if all those dinosaur depictions were accurate, so they decided to find out how their tongues actually looked like. For this, they had to study the hyoid bones of dinosaurs and pterosaurs, namely the bones around the tongue.
Then, they compared them to the hyoid bones of today’s crocodiles and birds. All three of them have common origins, so it’s important to study the anatomical traits of all of them. This way, researchers can find out where the evolutionary chain was separated. Also, looking at dinosaur tongues could be really important, as it reveals more about the lifestyle of the extinct creatures.
The results of the study revealed more similarities with crocodiles. The bones looked pretty simple and short, meaning the tongue attached to them couldn’t move too much. Therefore, dinosaur tongues couldn’t have stuck out of their mouths. However, pterosaurs, namely flying dinosaurs, had more complex hyoid bones, just like birds.
The tongue evolution coincided with the evolution of flight
Finding out more about dinosaur bones can tell us a lot about their evolution. Judging from the findings, researchers assumed tongues became more flexible as the creatures developed the ability to fly. Since pterosaurs lived more in the air than on the ground, they must have adopted different feeding techniques than terrestrial dinosaurs. Therefore, these ecosystem changes must have influenced the evolution of their tongue.
The change of dinosaur tongues also coincided with another change. Front limbs gradually became wings, so the animals could no longer use them to handle their prey. Therefore, they needed their tongues to be more flexible to suit the new eating habits. The study on dinosaur tongues was published in the journal PLOS One.
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