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October 24, 2019

Thermo Dino-Mics

A new study shows huge dinos evolved different cooling systems to combat heat stroke.

Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions

Big chill.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: large pounding feet) How did huge dinosaurs keep cool? (Sound effect: cartoon scurry) No, big guy, you can't just hide under a shade tree. A research team at Ohio University gives us some new information on how to keep a dino from overheating. (Sound effect: frying sound)

Evaporative cooling, like sweating, is big in nature. Evaporation of moisture in the nose, mouth and eyes helping to cool blood on its way to the brain.

The researchers first studied cooling systems in modern relatives of dinos: birds, reptiles. When compared to fossil evidence, the team concluded there were likely several different strategies that kept these beasts' brains from (Sound effect: boiling sound) boiling over.

Smaller dinosaurs didn't emphasize any particular cooling region. Most larger ones did -- increasing blood flow to parts of the head. Some emphasized both the nasal cavity and mouth, others only the nose.

Oddly, the giant T-Rex didn't emphasize any of these. The team then found evidence of a huge air sinus in T-Rex snouts -- with plenty of blood vessels. Circulating air cooled the blood (Sound effect: dino heavy breathing) every time the behemoth opened and closed its mouth.

(Sound effect: prehistoric jungle) The team is working to learn how other dinosaurs kept their brains cool and how that may have influenced behavior and preferred habitats.

Even though in the case of the dinos, I guess cooler heads ultimately didn't prevail.

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