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Giant Dinosaurs Were Fastest Growing Animals Ever

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the eat-your-vegetables dept.

China 64

sciencehabit writes "Lufengosaurus, a long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur that lived in China during the Jurassic period, were the biggest animals of their age, measuring 30 feet long. Now, fossilized embryos reveal that they were also the fastest growing animals on record — 'faster than anything we have ever seen,' according to one researcher. What's more, researchers have found traces of organic matter in their bones, which may belong to the oldest fossil proteins ever found."

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64 comments

Dinosaurs use protien based host files (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43420655)

APK and Goatse, the two Trolls Unite into Goatse.apk for your Samsung Galaxy S 4, the only smartphone that can stretch big enough inside my ass.

Re:Dinosaurs use protien based host files (1, Funny)

amnezick (1253408) | about a year ago | (#43420693)

cue the "my dinosaur is the fastest growing on earth: it grows 9 inches per second" jokes.

Full article hidden inside pay-wall (2, Informative)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#43420727)

Tried and failed to read the full article in the Science magazine, it's a paywall, unfortunately

Re:Full article hidden inside pay-wall (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43420829)

Giant Dinosaurs Got a Head Start on Growth
by Lizzie Wade on 10 April 2013, 1:10 PM

Nearly 200 million years ago, some of the earliest dinosaurs on Earth laid their eggs in modern Yunnan Province in southern China, only to have one nest after another destroyed by floods. Today, the remains of those lost eggs—and the embryonic dinosaurs that they contained—are helping scientists understand how their relatives grew up to be giants.

The destroyed nests probably belonged to Lufengosaurus, a long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur that lived in the region during the Jurassic period. Although Lufengosaurus and its relatives, called sauropodomorphs, have long been considered to be "those boring dinosaurs," says paleontologist and lead author Robert Reisz of the University of Toronto, Mississauga, in Canada, they do have one trait that makes them stand out—their size: "They were [always] the biggest things that lived in the neighborhood." Lufengosaurus, for example, grew to be about 9 meters long—the largest creature in the region at the time. But because fossils are literally set in stone, paleontologists have had few clues about how these animals grew to such gigantic proportions.

At first glance, the newly discovered bone bed doesn't look like much help. Although it offers some of the oldest embryonic dinosaur bones ever discovered, there are no complete skeletons to be found here; the floods that washed away the nests ripped apart their fragile, unhatched inhabitants and left behind only a few eggshell fragments and a chaotic jumble of hundreds of tiny bones. But it's precisely this mixture of specimens from many different nests—and, therefore, multiple stages of development—that has paleontologists so excited.

"When you get a beautiful little embryo inside an egg, it's gorgeous, but it's only a glimpse, sort of like a frozen moment in the embryonic life of the animal," Reisz says. "Here, because we have limb bones at various different stages of development, we can actually follow the embryonic life of the organism."

To reconstruct Lufengosaurus's development, Reisz's team focused on the 24 femur bones found in the remains. The first thing the researchers noticed is that the largest of these leg bones were nearly twice the size of the smallest ones, revealing that the creatures grew significantly before they even hatched. And when researchers cut open the femurs to study their structure, they noticed that the spaces in the bones where blood vessels and other tissues would have grown were particularly large. Scientists know that the larger such so-called vascular spaces are, the faster the animal is growing. Judging from the size of their femurs' vascular spaces, Reisz and colleagues concluded that the Lufengosaurus embryos grew faster than all other known dinosaurs and all living birds—"faster than anything we have ever seen," Reisz says. This rapid embryonic growth may be the key to understanding adult sauropodomorphs' towering physiques, the team reports online today in Nature.

But the real surprise that the bones contained didn't reveal itself until the researchers subjected them to the powerful x-rays produced by a synchrotron in Taiwan. When they did, they noticed traces of what they suspect is organic matter inside the bones. "Organic remains [of dinosaurs] have been found before, but this is by far the oldest," Reisz says. If the bones do, in fact, contain complex proteins, he hopes to compare them with proteins in living organisms to learn more about the biology of dinosaurs. Such a possibility "really opens up a new avenue of research for paleontology," he says.

Other researchers are more cautious. "Almost every example of such organic material is hotly disputed," and this one will likely be no different, points out Hans-Dieter Sues, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the study. "You can never really totally rule out contamination."

Still, if the evidence holds up, the find could finally tip the scale in favor of soft tissue preservation. "This [study] lends support to the idea that that some of these organic molecules may actually be preserved over millions of years," says Luis Chiappe, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in California who was not involved with the research. Regardless, he says, the bone bed itself is "a spectacular find" that's likely to yield many more insights into dinosaur development for years to come.

Re:Full article hidden inside pay-wall (1)

AikonMGB (1013995) | about a year ago | (#43421091)

Thanks, but he was referring to the Nature article itself, i.e. the scientific publication: "Embryology of Early Jurassic dinosaur from China with evidence of preserved organic remains [doi.org] ".

one word (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year ago | (#43422209)

ftfs:

What's more, researchers have found traces of organic matter in their bones, which may belong to the oldest fossil proteins ever found."

one word: jurassicparkjurassicparkjurassicparkjurassicpark!!!1!!1!

Re:Full article hidden inside pay-wall (1)

mcvos (645701) | about a year ago | (#43421853)

"faster than all other known dinosaurs and all living birds" isn't quite the same thing as "fastest growing animals ever". Blue Whales grow pretty fast too.

Re:Full article hidden inside pay-wall (1)

youn (1516637) | about a year ago | (#43423201)

article? this is slashdot, get with the program, we make stuff up as we argue on our perceived idea of what the article sounds like as we go along - with bonus points if you can come up with a car analogy. :p

Re:Full article hidden inside pay-wall (3, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43423695)

Not to be snarky at all, but a subscription to Science is well worth it for the summary articles and overviews (assuming you're into that sort of thing). It's a refreshing change from the ten line garbled summaries you find elsewhere.

Of course, that doesn't answer the problem of having a paywalled article as reference to a thread. It's not like people would read it, but we must keep up with appearances.

Re:Dinosaurs use protien based host files (5, Funny)

KiloByte (825081) | about a year ago | (#43420743)

cue the "my dinosaur is the fastest growing on earth: it grows 9 inches per second" jokes.

Full length in a quarter second? Impressive!

Re:Dinosaurs use protien based host files (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43420763)

Imperial or metric quarter?

I wonder how tight these grannys are (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43420715)

oh THAT kind of dinosaur.. never mind..

Dino burgers! (1, Funny)

Beardmonster (1346161) | about a year ago | (#43420721)

Jurassic Park them for meat!

Re:Dino burgers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43425857)

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, I want dino burgers. It's like, all I can think about these days.
Seriously, maybe they are cheaper to grow than a cow, more meat with less food? And I bet they taste AWESOME! Triceratops steaks, Brontosaurus burgers.. Yum.
Either that or genetically engineered giant insects. That would be yummy too.

Obviously they haven't (3, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43420779)

Giant Dinosaurs Were Fastest Growing Animals Ever

Obviously they haven't heard of Cowboyneal

Re:Obviously they haven't (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#43422473)

I think they're referring to length, not girth.

There was less junk DNA around back then (-1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43420783)

So they could be processed faster.

Junk DNA accumulates within us more and more every generation and so it takes longer and longer for cells to divide and grow. We're up to 98% junk DNA:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noncoding_DNA

Eventually our species, if we are around long enough but haven't had the benefit of genetic engineering, will all be the size of midgets and then... life will collapse as cells take so long to divide and multiply, that they will be diseased before they can get anything done.

Scientists are actually split on whether life on earth larger than insects will be around by the time our sun expands and kills our descendants in 1.5 billion years.

We need the equivalent of a computer reboot and OS reinstall to clear all the crud. Being super cereal here guys.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43420833)

Or maybe it has something to do with higher amounts of oxygen in the atmosphere millions of years ago.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | about a year ago | (#43421123)

Or maybe it has something to do with higher amounts of oxygen in the atmosphere millions of years ago.

More likely carbon. Plants and the animals they eat them are mostly made of water and carbon. The carbon comes from the air. The less CO2 there is in the air the more slowly plants and animals grow.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (1)

Kkloe (2751395) | about a year ago | (#43420843)

Or they just had more oxygen in the air and food to eat from than nowadays, even maybe better digestive system! Who knows?

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (4, Interesting)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#43420857)

Yeah, because the limiting factor in cellular division is copying DNA.

Protip: It's not.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (5, Informative)

tsa (15680) | about a year ago | (#43420889)

When I was a student in the early 1990s I was introduced to the concept of 'junk' DNA. I didn't believe in it then, and now it turns out that scientists find more and more interesting information in 'junk' DNA that is necessary for an organism to grow and function. [medicalnewstoday.com]

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (3, Interesting)

game kid (805301) | about a year ago | (#43421191)

Maybe the scientists currently on the DNA-decode job should bring in some reverse-engineers, or e.g. the MAME team, to figure out just how the decoding truly goes, since the "junk" seems to be used less as copyable data and more like arcane utility code. Interdisciplinary study and all that.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (1)

LanMan04 (790429) | about a year ago | (#43422019)

Junk DNA is basically this:

http://cs.nyu.edu/courses/fall11/CSCI-GA.2965-001/geneticalgex [nyu.edu]

We are very complex machines with LOTS of unexpected connections. Take out one little bit of "junk" DNA, the whole thing collapses because of the utterly bizarre inter-dependencies that have evolved over millions of years.

Here's the revelant bit: (3, Interesting)

LanMan04 (790429) | about a year ago | (#43422039)

That repertoire turns out to be more intriguing than Thompson could
have imagined. Although the configuration program specified tasks for
all 100 cells, it transpired that only 32 were essential to the
circuit's operation. Thompson could bypass the other cells without
affecting it. A further five cells appeared to serve no logical
purpose at all--there was no route of connections by which they could
influence the output. And yet if he disconnected them, the circuit
stopped working.

It appears that evolution made use of some physical property of these
cells--possibly a capacitive effect or electromagnetic inductance--to
influence a signal passing nearby. Somehow, it seized on this subtle
effect and incorporated it into the solution.

-------------

Another challenge is to make the circuit work over a wide temperature
range. On this score, the human digital scheme proves its
worth. Conventional microprocessors typically work between -20 0C and
80 0C. Human designers set the clock so that chip components have
enough time to settle into a digital value. As many computer hackers
know, they can turn up the clock speed if they keep the temperature of
the microprocessor low because the transistors settle into their on or
off states more quickly when cold.

Thompson's evolved circuit only works over a 10 0C range--the
temperature range in the laboratory during the experiment. This is
probably because the temperature changes the capacitance, resistance
or some other property of the circuit's components. Whatever the
cause, this is a serious drawback. If the circuit needs a temperature
controller to enable it to operate, then it is no longer a cheap,
low-power device. But evolution could come to the rescue here as well.
In a future genetic algorithm, Thompson plans to score circuits not
only on how well they perform an electronic task, but also on how well
they cope with temperature variation. Evolution might, for example,
create a design that includes a set of subcircuits each of which
operates over a different temperature range. If this fails to solve
the problem, Thompson will try giving the FPGA a clock. But he won't
tell the circuit what to do with it. "It will be a resource--we'll see
what use evolution makes of it," he says.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about a year ago | (#43422605)

Junk DNA, even if there are parts that have no code-like function still serve as a source of entropy. This tends to be why inbred children look "funny". While they may be genetically a fine specimen, the lack of entropy becomes noticeable in fractal style growth in body features

Re: There was less junk DNA around back then (1)

tsa (15680) | about a year ago | (#43427467)

That's very interesting, but can you elaborate on how that works? Has there been research into that?

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#43427305)

Junk is a misnomer. All of DNA is a hodge podge jumble of stuff. It is not nicely sorted and categorized and compacted.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43429507)

If it is necessary for growth and function, then it isn't junk at all.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43420979)

I you'd bothered to read the wikipedia link you provided (I just did), you'd know a large percentage of non-coding DNA is known to have some function. It just doesn't code proteins. The precentage that is thought to be of no use (and thus one day might rightfully be called junk) is very low. Plus, this percentage could change as more and more is learnt by science.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#43421113)

I have mod points, but there is no choice for "Full Retard".

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43421859)

Don't worry, he's already there.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43421735)

What in the hell are you talking about, and why is this modded informative? There's no correlation between the amount of non-coding DNA and rates of cell division or success as species. Junk DNA does not continuously accumulate "more and more every generation". Stuff gets cut out too. It's more of an equilibrium.

The analogy is an amusing one, but not correct in terms of the implications for living things. Some organisms have TONS of non-coding DNA and replicate and reproduce just fine compared to closely-related species that don't. Replication is a massively parallelized process, which is one of the reasons why so much non-coding DNA can accumulate with little apparent effect. Certainly if there was a huge and serious burden to having a lot of non-coding DNA, along the lines of what you describe, it would become pretty obvious when comparing between species with different amounts. It's not obvious at all.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#43421799)

I'm sure all that "junk" DNA has a function.

If it really slows down growth, it'd be an evolutionary disadvantage over those who do not carry all that junk DNA around for they'd grow up faster, and spend less time being small and vulnerable. Dinos are point in case: they're believed to grow so big as protection against predators, be so big that they can't kill you any more. So also they had to grow very fast, as being any smaller would mean they're vulnerable.

Also, why would we have picked up so much junk DNA if it really has no function at all? That just doesn't make sense to me.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#43422551)

I'm pretty sure I've seen this poster before, although he's listed as AC now. He's a believer in the bizarre snake oil "theory" of Morphic Fields. If you want to see how incredibly stupid some people can be while pretending to be scientifically literate it's an amusing line of research (at least during the periods when it's not infuriating.)

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43430263)

No I'm not that guy. I just like to shoot a pistol in the air and see who jumps. I don't actually believe what I posted earlier. It's just the results tend to be more entertaining and amusing than posting a reddit-style circlejerk agreeable or informed post.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#43421833)

So much wrong in a single post . . . +4 Informative??? There isn't a single sentence that isn't egregiously incorrect.

Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43422091)

I hope you were modded up for your link, and not for your silly hypothesis. From your own link, the "junk" DNA isn't useless junk (emphasis mine).

Initially, a large proportion of noncoding DNA had no known biological function and was therefore sometimes referred to as "junk DNA", particularly in the lay press. Some sequences may have no biological function for the organism, such as endogenous retroviruses. However, many types of noncoding DNA sequences do have important biological functions, including the transcriptional and translational regulation of protein-coding sequences. Other noncoding sequences have likely, but as-yet undetermined, functions. (This is inferred from high levels of homology and conservation seen in sequences that do not encode proteins but, nonetheless, appear to be under heavy selective pressure.)

So, how much junk DNA does a blue whale have? How does your hypothesis go along with the fact that today's humans are taller and heavier than humans just a hundred years ago? Methinks your "hypothesis" is an uneducated guess, that all you know about biology is what you've read in the popular press.

Guys, don't take that comment too seriously, it is without scientific merit.

There is no such thing as "junk" DNA. (1)

Medievalist (16032) | about a year ago | (#43424117)

Categorizing whatever you don't truly understand as "junk" is the most perfect demonstration of the Dunning-Kruger effect possible.

No! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43420915)

The American is the fastest growing animal ever. have you seen their waistlines? Only more hype BS. Some real science please?! No! Oh, ok.

eca kombi (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43421055)

wooow super.....
eca kombi [kombifan.com]

Let's clone and eat Lufengosaurs! (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about a year ago | (#43421163)

If they are the fastest growing animal ever, it seems like the perfect candidate for efficient protein source farming. I mean, come on, what could possibly go wrong?

I have a Theory of the Lufengosaurus (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43421183)

Which is entirely by me, and from me alone. The paper has been accepted by the editors of the peer-reviewed 'International Journal of Jurassic Science', and I'll send you a PDF if you'll help defray my $3900 publication fee.

Damn CO2... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43421265)

... it made dinosaurs grow too much !

how would they know? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#43421453)

How would they know if a dinosaur fossil is from 1 year old or 2 years old? Carbon dating isn't that specific. They'd be guessing that a dinosaur was fully grown at X amount of years and then sort of backtrack it but it's basically a complete guess.

Re:how would they know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43421709)

You called a lot of people stupid in the quantum entanglement thread. You were called out by at least one physicist asking for a link to an article you based your argument on. Then you disappeared. Why is that? Were you just talking talking out your ass and being insulting? Certainly you are knowledgeable and can provide this link, right?

Re:how would they know? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#43421835)

I think it's quite safe to assume that the dinos this study is dedicated to are less than one year old, as this is about dinos that were still in their eggs.

OTOH I'd guess it's normal for a dino to multiply it's size while still in the egg. Just look at human babies, they grow like a hundred times in length and something like a thousand times in weight from the moment they're recognisable as human (arms, legs, head) until they're born. After birth they grow only about four times in length and some 20 times in weight to reach adulthood.

Re:how would they know? (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#43421919)

First off, carbon dating is only good for the latest couple tens of thousands of years. After that the percentage of C14 is so small that randomness takes over.

What they would be looking at is the internal morphology of the bones.

Fast - but how fast, really? (3, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#43421467)

The article doesn't mention much about how fast they really grew.

How long did it take them to reach adult size, for example?

And related: what was the approx. lifespan of such animals?

How could they manage the food intake for that growth? This are plant eaters, and plants are not the most efficient sources of energy - leaves are pretty hard to digest, especially compared to meat. So they must eat a lot of it (probably pretty much constantly), and have a rather efficient digestive system that can handle the huge quantities of food.

Re:Fast - but how fast, really? (1)

powerlinekid (442532) | about a year ago | (#43424093)

Sauropod Growth Rate [geoscienceworld.org]

faster than anything we have ever seen (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about a year ago | (#43421621)

Maybe chicken tastes like dinosaur

Re:faster than anything we have ever seen (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about a year ago | (#43421801)

Considering that chickens are the closest living relative to dinosaurs, I wouldn't be too surprised if they did. Of course, serving a Pterodactylus wing would mean placing a 2.5 foot wing on the table.

Re:faster than anything we have ever seen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43422221)

OMG I just came.

Re:faster than anything we have ever seen (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#43422583)

Hopefully Lufengosaurus bacon would be better than turkey "bacon". That stuff is just plain NASTY.

Re:faster than anything we have ever seen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43422777)

Pterodactyls weren't dinosaurs. :)

Re:faster than anything we have ever seen (1)

the biologist (1659443) | about a year ago | (#43422969)

And chickens are dinosaurs. ;-)

Re:faster than anything we have ever seen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43425287)

We need to bring back the Dinosaurs Jurassic Park style, so we can eat them.

Not even remotely true (1)

emho24 (2531820) | about a year ago | (#43422245)

"Fastest growing animals ever" HA!

You need to come to my home state and take a look at some of the mammals we have here. They truck around in their motorized wheelchairs in the isles of Walmart.

So? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43422739)

C'mon, we've all seen it, you toss the capsule in the bathwater, and BOOM, you got yourself a dinosaur in a few seconds, how is this news?

Oxygen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43423111)

This is because of the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere during that time. The more oxygen in the atmosphere, the bigger things breathing that oxygen become due to pressure.

Did Jesus? (2)

AndyKron (937105) | about a year ago | (#43423125)

I wonder if Jesus ever rode one of those big ones?

What about whales? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43423349)

How big do they become? 200 tons at 33 meters? Yes, I know that adult size does not imply fastest growth, but I'm curious about how fast they reach that size.

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