Oldest Known Bird Squawk Box Suggests Dinosaurs Could Not Sing

Posted: Oct 13 2016, 6:40am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 13 2016, 8:14am CDT , in Latest Science News


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Oldest Known Bird Voice Box Suggests Dinosaurs Could Not Sing
Study of the first fossil vocal organ from the Mesozoic provides insight into the evolution of bird calls and song. The fossil syrinx is from the late Cretaceous of Antarctica. Within dinosaurs there was a transition from a vocal organ present in the larynx (present in crocodiles) to one uniquely developed deep in the chest in birds. Credit: Nicole Fuller / Sayo Art for UT Austin.
  • Voice Box of Ancient Avian Species lends Evidence regarding Vocal Capacity of Dinosaurs

A voice box of oldest know avian species has lent evidence regarding the vocal capacity and range of dinosaurs.

The most ancient of vocal organs of a bird has been unearthed. The fossil of a relative of ducks and geese was found in Antarctica. This creature lived 66 million years ago in the time of the dinosaurs.

This Mesazoic Era vocal organ has been termed a “syrinx”. This part was not found in the fossils of non-avian dinosaurs. Thus these dinosaurs probably could not produce song-like trilling noises as birds do.

Birds, as everyone knows, are a direct evolutionary offshoot of dinosaurs and are even considered to be living dinosaurs by many scientists today. No non-avian dinosaur or crocodile relative has such an organ as the scientists have discovered much to their surprise.

Now finally we have a pretty good clue as to how dinosaurs responded in a vocal manner to each other. Also the evolution of avians is laid out in the open thanks to this research.

The organ is a very complex piece of biological intricacy. It is composed of hard cartilage rings that in turn bolster soft tissues. These latter tissues vibrate in order to produce the symphonies and complex songs that lie in the vocal repertoire of birds.

The cartilage this organ is composed of doesn’t fossilize with the same frequency as bones. However, having said that, the high mineral content in the syrinx ring does make for a limited amount of fossilization.

All the fossilized examples of syrinx samples have been found from ancient birds that lived after the non-avian dinosaurs had died out.

The current sample of a syrinx was found in a Vegavis iaai. This bird lived during the Cretaceous Period. The species was labeled for the first time in 2005.

The shape of this organ known as the syrinx shows that the creature probably made honking noises from two sources situated on either end. Other birds were compared to this ancient avian.

A lot more data is needed before a final conclusion could be reached. As for the dinosaurs, since they didn’t have any syrinx, they probably made ostrich like boom noises. The ostrich also does not have any syrinx.

Also the appearance of bigger brains is tied up with this crucial question. Finally, birds have an evolution that is much more complex than just flight and feathers. They are a wonderful and fascinating bunch of creatures to study on their own.

The findings were published in the journal Nature on Oct 12.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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