Modern birds could help scientists better understand the way dinosaurs managed to shift and move their massive bodies as they ran, according to recent research published in the journal PLOS One.
Though the age of the dinosaurs ended some 60 million years ago, their legacy lives on through modern birds. The feathered animals are direct descendants of the ancient reptiles, which makes studying them a great way to get a glimpse of how dinosaurs may have acted.
In the new study, a group of researchers from the University of Queensland analyzed 12 ground-running bird species and looked at their running motions. To do that, the scientists videotaped the animals as they moved along special race tracks outfitted with special plates to measure how much force the birds exerted with their feet.
That revealed, unlike humans, birds are able to smoothly shift between running and walking. Past studies have documented the flow before, and this research builds on such findings. It also gave a glimpse into how bird locomotion changed over time.
“Locomotion is important for understanding other parts of dinosaur ecology – how you find food, how you find mates, how you avoid becoming food yourself,” said lead author Peter Bishop, a researcher at the University of Queensland, according to The Guardian. “But for me, the most interesting part of dinosaur locomotion is that it’s the most critical part of how dinosaurs evolved into birds. There were a lot of changes in locomotion … including the development of powered flight.”
This research is significant because it allowed the team to create models that may show how bipedal dinosaurs once moved. As much as researchers have known about the ancient reptiles, understanding their movement is not an easy task. As a result, gaining insight into their locomotion could help shed more light on the long-extinct beasts.