OU engineering study sheds light on dino dining

Via OU Witmer Lab and Research

Ohio University researchers' studies were published in scientific publications this week for their discoveries in how dinosaurs ate — and the bacteria behind fecal matter.

OU researchers compared the Allosaurusto to what was previously considered its larger cousin, the Tyrannosaurus rex. But scientists realized the two are much less related after analyzing how they ate using advanced computer modeling techniques.

“Apparently one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to dinosaur feeding styles,” said OU paleontologist Eric Snively, lead author of a study published in Palaeontologia Electronica, in a news release. “Many people think of Allosaurus as a smaller and earlier version of T. rex, but our engineering analyses show that they were very different predators.”

The computer modeling highlighted the Allosaurus’ key neck muscle that would have de-fleshed its prey similar to that of small falcons. A T. rex, on the other hand, ripped and shook its prey, similar to a crocodile, according to the release.

“The engineering approach combines all the biological data—things like where the muscle forces attach and where the joints stop motion—into a single model. We can then simulate the physics and predict what Allosaurus was actually capable of doing,” said John Cotton, an assistant professor in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, in the release.

Researchers concluded that the Allosaurus was a nimble hunter, capable of moving its head rapidly with considerable control. However, that control required the use of brute-force power to de-flesh prey.

OU biologists also released their findings this week about the bacterium Shigella — the cause of a diarrheal disease with deadly implications.

Their discovery focused on what genetic pathways Shigella takes once it enters humans to survive in the human body. This research found that an “RNA thermometer” exists within the bacterium that monitors the condition of the human body to find an environment to survive, according to an OU news release.

Shigellosis, the disease caused by the bacteria, kills more than a million people a year, said Erin Murphy, an assistant professor in OU’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, in the release.

“This may be an evolutionary adaptation, as it would be wasteful for the bacterium to make this protein before it was in the host,” Murphy said.


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