Assessing dinosaur growth patterns: a microscopic revolution

Trends Ecol Evol. 2005 Dec;20(12):677-84. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2005.08.012. Epub 2005 Sep 8.


Some of the longest standing questions in dinosaur paleontology pertain to their development. Did dinosaurs grow at slow rates similar to extant reptiles or rapidly similar to living birds and mammals? How did some forms attain gigantic proportions? Conversely, how did birds (avian dinosaurs) become miniaturized? New data on dinosaur longevity garnered from bone microstructure (i.e. osteohistology) are making it possible to assess basic life-history parameters of the dinosaurs such as growth rates and timing of developmental events. Analyses of these data in an evolutionary context are enabling the identification of developmental patterns that lead to size changes within the Dinosauria. Furthermore, this rich new database is providing inroads for studying individual and population biology. All in all, paleohistological research is proving to be the most promising avenue towards gaining a comprehensive understanding of dinosaur biology.