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Dinosaurs were more similar to humans and birds than reptiles

The first analysis of its kind has found dinosaurs and pterosaurs, their flying cousins, had good metabolism.

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By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Dinosaurs were more similar to humans and birds than reptiles, according to new research.

The legendary beasts were warm blooded endotherms that self regulate body temperature - just like mammals, say scientists.

It made them highly energetic - meaning T. Rex was even more ferocious than previously thought.

Lead author Dr. Jasmina Wiemann, of Yale University said: "This study demonstrates dinosaurs were real endotherms.

"It refutes previous ideas they had an intermediate condition, mesothermia, between ectotherms and endotherms, or they could maintain bodily temperature constant thanks to their large bodies, given there are small dinosaurs with high metabolic rates.

For years, it was believed the biggest land animals that ever lived belonged to a group known as ectotherms.

They have cold blood - and rely on external sources such as sunlight for various activities.

Members include snakes, alligators, crocodiles and lizards - as well as fish and amphibians.

Then it was suggested they were something in between - mesotherms that use their own metabolism.

Tuna, leatherback turtles and the Great White shark are among the few found in nature today.

Now the first analysis of its kind has found dinosaurs and pterosaurs, their flying cousins, had good metabolism.

It enabled them to regulate body temperature to adapt to the weather. The findings are based on scanning chemicals in fossilized bones.

They also refute the idea dinosaurs went extinct because they were ectotherms. It has been proposed they could not cope with climate change after a giant space rock smashed into the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago.

Co-author Dr. Iris Menendez, of the Complutense University of Madrid, said: "According to the results of this research, being an endotherm is not an advantage in the case of mass extinctions.

"We will have to look for causes other than the metabolism they had, which was similar to that of mammals and birds which did survive."

She added: "This study provides us with knowledge about extinct species. Sometimes we have the idea there are not many discoveries still to be made.

"But the reality is many studies in recent decades are continuing to change the ideas we had about what some species were like, and help us understand life in the past better."

The study in Nature may settle one of the longest running debates in paleontology once and for all - were dinosaurs ectotherms, endotherms or mesotherms.

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