University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Spring 2006

Dinosaur’s “Duck Bill” Not Linked to Sense of Smell

PhD student reconstructs the brain and nasal cavity of the lambeosaur

The massive, hollow crests of duck-billed dinosaurs (also known as lambeosaurs, which lived up to 85 million years ago) might have been used to attract sexual partners or warn of predators, but one theory about the crests is now being sniffed at: that it was the main location of the dino’s sense of smell.

Lambeosaur
Lambeosaur

David Evans, a PhD student in zoology at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, reconstructed the brain and nasal cavity of the lambeosaur using fragments of fossil bone, and determined that the system responsible for the sense of smell did not change drastically in lambeosaur evolution. He also confirmed that it is unlikely that the crests evolved primarily to heighten sensitivity to smells. These findings add weight to two popular theories: that the complex nasal passages inside the crests were used to create honking noises to attract mates or warn of predators, and that the crests were used for visual display in mate selection or species recognition.

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