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MU Prof: Dinosaurs Were Bigger, Faster Than We Thought

Brett Blume
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Illustrations by Martin Ansin (Courtesy University of Missouri)

Illustrations by Martin Ansin (Courtesy University of Missouri)

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COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMOX) -  “Must go faster!”

One of the many memorable lines from the 1993 blockbuster “Jurassic Park”, about dinosaurs being resurrected from mosquito DNA.

But if Steven Spielberg had known what Professor Casey Holliday at the University of Missouri now knows, Dr. Ian Malcolm and his pals might not have escaped the charging T. Rex that was chasing their jeep.

“Based on the anatomy of birds, like ostriches, and even alligators we learn that dinosaurs must have had fairly thick articular cartilage caps on the ends of their long bones,” MU anatomy professor Casey Holliday explained to KMOX News. “As much as possibly a foot thick in some of the largest animals like Brachiosaurus or other sauropod dinosaurs.”

Holliday, who has a unique background in anatomy and paleontogy, deduced along with his colleagues at Ohio University that this extra cartilage would not only have made some dinosaurs taller, but faster as well.

“The way we estimate speed in dinosaurs is often based on stride length, so how long the leg actually is from the hip to the ground,” Holliday said. “So if you’re going to increase the length of that limb by even half-a-foot or so, just by arithmetic that’s going to increase the estimate of speed.”

So some dinosaurs were a bit taller, a bit faster than originally believed — does that really make any difference millions of years after the last dinosaur died out?

Actually it does, according to Holliday, and the reason goes back to that breakthrough finding on cartilage.

“All mammals (including humans) have very thin cartilages on the ends of our bones, which is why we get arthritis,” he said. “Our cartilage is only about a millimeter, a millimeter-and-a-half thick, so we wear through it very easily and we (as a society) spend millions of dollars trying to figure out how to repair that cartilage.”

He and his colleagues are now heading back into the lab to figure out how to steer this new finding about dino DNA toward helping prevent or treat arthritis and other degenerative tissue diseases in humans.

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