Wednesday, 30 October 2013
Virtual walking with Dinosaurs…Argentinosaurus takes digital steps!
A digital reconstruction of one of the world’s largest known land animals, the Cretaceous dinosaur Argentinosaurus, has allowed this giant to take its first steps -- albeit virtually -- in over 94 million years. The research outlined in the journal PLoS ONE, is the most anatomically detailed walking simulation so far for a sauropod dinosaur. The study, undertaken at the University of Manchester, provides the first virtual trackway for Argentinosaurus…whose tracks have not been found (yet!).
The skeleton used in the study shows that the plant-eating dinosaur measured at least 131 feet (nearly 40 metres!) long. The digital reconstruction reveals that it gently lumbered along at around 5 miles per hour (8 kph). “The simulation shows a slow walking gait, which is to be expected, given that the animal weighs 80 tonnes,” lead researcher Dr. Bill Sellers from the University of Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences. “What is interesting is how well the simulated footfall pattern matches up with typical sauropod trackways.”
For the study, Sellers and his colleagues laser scanned the huge dinosaur’s skeleton in Argentina using a Z+F LiDAR Imager. They then used the computer modelling system developed by Sellers (Gaitsym) that uses an equivalent of 30,000 desktop computers to complete the necessary calculations to get the dinosaur to digitally walk again. The virtual dinosaur allowed the team to study the vast sauropod dinosaurs locomotion.
Understanding how such past animals moved may help us to better understand modern day musculoskeletal systems. “If you are trying to understand any body system that is shared by a range of different animals then it is often extremely useful to compare this system across different species,” Sellers explained. “Vertebrate muscles, skeletons and joints work exactly the same way in everything from fish to humans.”
He continued, “The really interesting aspect of dinosaur locomotion is that you are looking at animals that test the limits of the musculoskeletal system simply by virtue of being so big. They have to make compromises and come up with ways of coping that help us to understand the limits and compromises in the human musculoskeletal system.”
Paper download at: from PLoS ONE with this link!