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Planet Earth

Call of the Dino

What dinosaurs really sounded like.

By Gemma TarlachDecember 12, 2016 6:00 AM
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DM7/Shutterstock

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Let’s get this straight: Dinosaurs did not roar. Their anatomy just wasn’t built for it. But these beloved beasts of the Mesozoic weren’t mute, either.

A June study in Evolution looked at the anatomy and sound repertoire of birds and crocodilians, the nearest living relatives of extinct dinosaurs. Verdict: Dinosaurs probably made mostly closed-mouth vocalizations, like crocodilians today.

Think that’s not as impressive? Take it from study co-author Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas at Austin, who recalled a heart-pounding experience years ago when she visited a Chinese alligator breeding project at the Bronx Zoo in New York. A door in the facility slammed shut, says Clarke, and “the room exploded in deep thumps. THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP. Every male alligator was making that noise.” Now consider that ominous thumping coming from a T. rex, more than 100 times the size.

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