Since paleontologists have persuasively argued in favour of dinosaurs developing herd, pack and family behaviours, it raised the question: How in blue blazes dinosaurs that were so damned big provide any type of nurturing for their hatchlings which were so damned small?
Physiology professor Paul Else from the University of Wollongong (yes, it’s in Australia), was baffled by this concern, and found a correlation between other avian species, namely penguins, flamingos and pigeons, which produce a “milk-like” substance fed to their chicks.
The “milk” is similar in purpose as to what mammalians lactate for their offspring, providing the necessary antibodies, protein, fats and carotenoids for a healthy bouncing baby. In the case of pigeons and doves, they also produce an epidermal growth factor.
This theory helps explain how dinosaurs grew so quickly.
Prof. Else says he ultimately works at the “molecular level” as a “comparative physiologist,” so connecting the dots between modern and extinct species was right in his wheelhouse.
“Since birds and dinosaurs share much in common I proposed that some dinosaurs likely used this feeding strategy.”
It’s been a problem he’s been gnawing on for a long while.
“… I sat on the idea for about 15 years waiting to have some time to explore it. Finally, when on study leave, I sent 300 words describing the idea to the editor of the Journal of Experimental Biology. The editor liked it and asked for an article – and that’s when the work really began – taking a pure idea and making it real, while at the same time being critical about the possibility of dinosaur lactation,” Else says.
More technically speaking, the secretion would have generated in the upper digestive tract from crop glands or glands of the oesophagus.
Now the theory has been launched into the official world of academia when it was published in the latest issue of The Journal of Experimental Biology, it’s Else’s hope paleobiologists and paleontologists will investigate whether his proposition has any legs to stand on.
He suggests beginning the investigation with hadrosaurs, who have been catalogued as “site breeders with nest-bound youth fed by parents.”
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