Dinosaur paleohistology: Review, trends and new avenues of investigation

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Abstract

In the mid-19th century, the discovery that bone microstructure in fossils could be preserved with fidelity provided a new avenue for understanding the evolution, function, and physiology of long extinct organisms. This resulted in the establishment of paleohistology as a subdiscipline of vertebrate paleontology, which has contributed greatly to our current understanding of dinosaurs as living organisms. Dinosaurs are part of a larger group of reptiles, the Archosauria, of which there are only two surviving lineages, crocodilians and birds. The goal of this review is to document progress in the field of archosaur paleohistology, focusing in particular on the Dinosauria. We briefly review the "growth age" of dinosaur histology, which has encompassed new and varied directions since its emergence in the 1950s, resulting in a shift in the scientific perception of non-avian dinosaurs from "sluggish" reptiles to fast-growing animals with relatively high metabolic rates. However, fundamental changes in growth occurred within the sister clade Aves, and we discuss this major evolutionary transition as elucidated by histology. We then review recent innovations in the field, demonstrating how paleohistology has changed and expanded to address a diversity of non-growth related questions. For example, dinosaur skull histology has elucidated the formation of curious cranial tissues (e.g., "metaplastic" tissues), and helped to clarify the evolution and function of oral adaptations, such as the dental batteries of duck-billed dinosaurs. Lastly, we discuss the development of novel techniques with which to investigate not only the skeletal tissues of dinosaurs, but also less-studied soft-tissues, through molecular paleontology and paleohistochemistry-recently developed branches of paleohistology- and the future potential of these methods to further explore fossilized tissues. We suggest that the combination of histological and molecular methods holds great potential for examining the preserved tissues of dinosaurs, basal birds, and their extant relatives. This review demonstrates the importance of traditional bone paleohistology, but also highlights the need for innovation and new analytical directions to improve and broaden the utility of paleohistology, in the pursuit of more diverse, highly specific, and sensitive methods with which to further investigate important paleontological questions.

Detaljer

Författare
Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • North Carolina State University
  • Montana State University
  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
  • Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Forskningsområden

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Geologi

Nyckelord

Originalspråkengelska
Artikelnummere7764
TidskriftPeerJ
Volym2019
Utgåva nummer9
StatusPublished - 2019
PublikationskategoriForskning
Peer review utfördJa