Models of dinosaur movement could help us build stronger robots and buildings

phys.org | 10/9/2018 | Staff
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From about 245 to 66 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Although well-preserved skeletons give us a good idea of what they looked like, the way their limbs worked remains a bigger mystery. But computer simulations may soon provide a realistic glimpse into how some species moved and inform work in fields such as robotics, prosthetics and architecture.

John Hutchinson, a professor of evolutionary biomechanics from the Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire, UK, and his colleagues are investigating the locomotion of the earliest, small dinosaurs, as part of the five-year-long Dawndinos project which began in 2016.

Dinosaurs - Prof - Hutchinson - People - Celebrity

"These dinosaurs have been hugely neglected," Prof. Hutchinson said. "People – including me – have mostly been studying the celebrity dinosaurs like T. rex."

About 225 million years ago, during the late Triassic period, these small dinosaurs were in the minority, whereas the bigger crocodile-like animals that lived alongside them were more numerous and diverse. Dinosaurs somehow went on to thrive while most other animals from that period became extinct.

Quadrupedal - Contemporaries - Dinosaurs - Posture - Limbs

Compared to their quadrupedal, heavy-built contemporaries, what stands out about these early dinosaurs is that they had an erect posture and could, at least intermittently, walk on two limbs. One theory is that their style of locomotion gave them a survival edge.

"The idea of this project is to test that idea," Prof. Hutchinson said.

Team - Computer - Simulations - Species - Archosaurs

The team has started to develop computer simulations to estimate how 11 different species of extinct archosaurs – the group of animals that includes crocodiles, birds, their relatives and dinosaurs – might have moved. They will focus on five different types of motion: walking, running, turning, jumping and standing.

To test whether their simulations are accurate, the researchers plan to give the same treatment to their living relatives – crocodiles and birds – as well. They will then compare the results to actual measurements of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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