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Science

"Squishy Joints" May Have Helped Dinosaurs Grow To Giant Sizes 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the bigger-they-are dept.
benonemusic writes "A new study in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that dinosaurs reached gigantic proportions relative to mammals because of differences in their cartilage, making their joints squishier and able to sustain greater amounts of force. Other factors contributed to dinosaurs' larger sizes, including their lighter, air-sac-filled skeletons, and some researchers point out that the sizes of some dinosaurs and mammals were approximately equal, so anatomical differences between cartilage in dinosaurs and mammals may not directly explain why some dinosaurs grew to larger sizes."
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"Squishy Joints" May Have Helped Dinosaurs Grow To Giant Sizes

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  • Wrong question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Friday October 25, 2013 @04:36AM (#45231999) Homepage

    "anatomical differences between cartilage in dinosaurs and mammals may not directly explain why some dinosaurs grew to larger sizes."

    Anatomical differences are never going to explain "why", they can only explain "how".

    "Why" is easy to answer - survival of the biggest.

    • by flyneye (84093)

      "Why" is seldom a helpful modifier with which to begin an interrogatory . It only deals with motives. It invites only speculation or lies , dependent on circumstance.
      It would be easier to simplify that there was merely a "need", be it for competition, be it from different gravity, be it for, fill in the blank.
      Unless one is privy to the cirumstances in realtime as a witness, "why" is only a guess and has no real place in science.
      Far more profitable are; who, where, when, how and what, producing a trove of da

    • "anatomical differences between cartilage in dinosaurs and mammals may not directly explain why some dinosaurs grew to larger sizes."

      Anatomical differences are never going to explain "why", they can only explain "how".

      Agreed - this is sloppy reporting (mainly in the /. summary but also in the original). I think what they are trying to say is that this particular joint design, which evolved in smaller reptiles, later proved to be helpful in the evolution of giant dinosaurs - i.e., it was a sort of exaptation (formerly known as pre-adaption) in the sense that while this design's posited suitability for carrying large loads wasn't necessary when it evolved (the mammalian design was equally capable for animals of that size),

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Using "why" (implicitly "why can") rather than "how" is a very standard usage, both when asking these kinds of questions and answering them. I doubt anyone would actually read it in the anthropomorphising sense unless they were trying to win some sort of pedantry contest.

      • by xevioso (598654) on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:13PM (#45236683)

        I agree. No one says to a 6 year old when they ask "Why is the sky blue" ...

        "Do you mean why as in motives or did you actually mean how it is that the sky is blue? Please clarify."

        because if you ask that, then they will say, "Why"

        and then you are screwed.

    • Re:Wrong question (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sockatume (732728) on Friday October 25, 2013 @08:21AM (#45232709)

      Given that "survival of the fittest" is an unguided process, isn't that also "how" rather than "why"?

    • Survival of the biggest until that asteroid came along
    • Squishy joints in the morning
      Squishy joints at night
      Squishy joints, before squishy joints
      And then squishy more...

    • by reub2000 (705806)

      Well why where they so large? Where they endothermic, and the large body mass helped them conserve heat?

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Ah yes, the Lehman-Brothersaurus, too big to become extinct.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 25, 2013 @04:37AM (#45232003)

    The huge joints that dinosaurs would have rolled would be quite squishy and sticky. They lit them at volcanoes of course. Which eventually led the the dinosaurs becoming too lazy and destructive(the joints would start forest fires) to serve their alien overlords so they were killed off.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The huge joints that dinosaurs would have rolled would be quite squishy and sticky. They lit them at volcanoes of course. Which eventually led the the dinosaurs becoming too lazy and destructive(the joints would start forest fires) to serve their alien overlords so they were killed off.

      This is a cartoon I would pay to watch.

    • by drainbramage (588291) on Friday October 25, 2013 @09:03AM (#45232989)

      And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why they called it the Stoned Age.

      • by Alsee (515537)

        It also explains why Fred and Barney were always cooking up colossally dumb ideas.

        -

  • ... and the trees were purple and sky was bending through a tiny worm hole there we were all lead to utopia

  • Dinosaurs and mammals were about the same size? Didn't you just get done telling us that dinosaurs were much larger than mammals just 2 sentences ago?

    Sheesh. What journal was this published in again? The Bible?
    • by jabuzz (182671)

      No some, possibly even most dinosaurs are the same size as mammals. A small number of species of dinosaurs grew to be bigger than the largest land based mammals.

      It's all bogus anyway as the largest known animal to ever exist is a mammal, namely the Blue Whale.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_whale [wikipedia.org]

  • by abhisri (960175) on Friday October 25, 2013 @05:55AM (#45232241)

    Evolutionary paths.

    Insects on average are smaller than most mammals. Mammals too come in all sizes.

    Analysis of air trapped in amber fossil shows that oxygen ratio in that period was higher, which may have permitted evolutionary path of such giant creatures.
    http://minerals.cr.usgs.gov/gips/na/amber.html [usgs.gov]

    Squishy joints? Considering how cause and effect get frequently confused, it seems more likely that the joints may have became "squishy" in order to support the larger size permitted by the oxygen-rich high-metabolism environment, not necessarily actually the cause.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday October 25, 2013 @06:58AM (#45232411) Homepage

      Insects don't have lungs or a circulatory system. Their size is limited by how fast oxygen can diffuse through their internal goo.

    • But, is that correlation or causality? Do oxygen rates really need to be that much higher to grow that large. Sherpas get by with the same biology, just way more hemoglobin (?) in their blood to exploit lower oxygen levels at altitude. And, your body would quickly adjust as well.

      Or were the oxygen levels just an artifact of the arms race of trees trying to outgrow the herbivores? I have no clue, just speculating.

      • by quantaman (517394)

        We're not operating at the fringes of the size limit so our biology can adapt more easily.

        A more relevant question might be what limits an Elephant's size. Would a slightly larger elephant have trouble extracting enough oxygen from the atmosphere to survive?

    • by quantaman (517394)

      I'm still waiting for the scientifically accurate remake of Jurassic Park where the dinosaurs are all lying on the ground gasping for air.

  • Come on now. There had to be one hell of a lot of easily obtained food in massive fields of easily reached, easily mouthed leaves and stalks for these huge vegetarians to exist (we'll ignore the tiny guys.) There also had to be a limited number of viable predators. Dinos also must have been able to grow fairly fast to reach those sizes within what could be considered a likely lifespan.

    How come nobody talks about these other requirements? In other words there is a whole ecosystem and genetic system that

  • All these years, the government has been telling us that smoking special joints will stunt our growth. Now we find out that special joints led to the dinosaurs growing to extraordinary sizes!

  • Other factors contributed to dinosaurs' larger sizes, including their lighter, air-sac-filled skeletons, and some researchers point out that the sizes of some dinosaurs and mammals were approximately equal, so anatomical differences between cartilage in dinosaurs and mammals may not directly explain why some dinosaurs grew to larger sizes.

    I thought the much larger concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere was supposed too have been a factor, and they'd never have been able to grow that big in our current at

  • - Grow large, forcing an optimization of weight
    - Wrong move! Environmental pressures prefer small
    - Small and optimized for weight
    - Oh shit, we can sort of fly!
    - ???? = Ad views
    - Profit

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