Sunday, September 11, 2022

Dinosaur Sounds

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Geology, Paleontology, Biodiversity, Behavior

Ed Hessler

Many of us would like to know what dinosaurs really sounded like.

Noam Hassenfeld, reporting for VOX (August 24, 2022) describes recent attempts based in science rather than our imagination.

Most of us want some of them to roar, of course.

Why we would like to know is curiosity about the world, of course but there are scientific reasons which result from such curiosity, too. Animal vocalizations provide clues to their behavior as well as their environment. 

Hassenfeld includes vocalizations from the film Jurassic Park of what film makers thought they might sound like. He turns our attention to a couple of possibilities but spends most of his time on one, the vocalizations of a current living member of the dinosaur family, the alligator. In other words to the evolutionary tree - crocodilians - although they are not the most closely related.

You can listen to alligator territorial vocalizations and may be surprised as I was. Paleontologist Julia Clarke pushed this vocalization another step...downward. She pitched "an alligator sound down extremely far in order to simulate what a T. rex - the iconic dinosaur -may have sounded like" and this sound sequence is included. I include two links for Dr. Clarke, here and here. I think you will understand why I chose two once you check them.

The article is thorough in its coverage of what is known and unknown and the discussions Hassenfeld had with paleontologists is lively and informative. Please do yourself a favor and read the full article.

Also included in the article is a link to "Unexplainable, Vox's science podcast (39m 32s) about unanswered questions" on dinosaur sounds with paleontologist Michael Habib
It is well known that birds are even closer relatives on the evolutionary tree so why not use them as a first consideration? The problem is with a soft tissue, so often the case in paleontology. The first appearance of the syrinx," the structure birds use for their vocalizations while showing overlap in time with dinosaurs is not known. The lack of soft tissue material or evidence for it is a formidable problem in simulating their vocalizations.

Suppose though that dinosaurs had a syrinx. The sonic possibilities are included in another sound sequence. The article includes another link to an episode of Unexplainable in which "Vox sound designer Cristian Ayala tried his hand at creating some scientifically plausible dinosaur sounds based on these conversations."

The article made me think about the nature of science. There are many ways to think it. Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll posted a new one recently (Facebook), a sequence I like: "The language of all science is: 1 We have ideas. 2. They could be right. 3. Or they could be wrong. 4. But sometimes we fall in love with them anyway. 5. How do we guard against that?

I'm sure you have some ideas.

No comments:

Post a Comment