Fossilized vocal organ discovery sheds light on dinosaur sounds

The vocalizations dinosaurs made are largely a mystery, though some have speculated they have made noises similar to that of birds. A recently discovered fossilized vocal organ, though, has largely dashed that idea, as it hasn't been found with the fossils of dinosaurs dated from the same time period. The vocal organ originates from the ancestor of modern geese and ducks, and is dated at more than 66 million years old. The fossil in which the vocal organ was located was recovered in the Antarctic.

This vocal organ is known as a syrinx, and in this case, it dates back to the Mesozoic era. This organ has not been found in non-bird dinosaurs from the same time period, which leads scientists to believe that dinosaurs probably didn't make the kinds of calls and screeches we hear from modern birds. In fact, researchers now believe this organ may have evolved late in these birds.

The fossil itself was found back in 1992 by a team of Antarctic researchers. Many years later in 2013, University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences paleontologist Julia Clarke discovered the fossil contains a syrinx, the small organ composed of cartilage rings that makes bird calls possible — in this case, probably a honking sound that wasn't unlike what a goose makes.

Other dinosaurs from the time period haven't been found with this organ, and so it won't help shed light on these non-avian beasts. However, the organ's discovery helps researchers learn what kind of sounds ancient avian dinosaurs produced, and can even help determine aspects of their evolution and their anatomical structures.

SOURCE: EurekAlert

Image via Nicole Fuller/Sayo Art for UT Austin