Research

Keeping Cool in the Cretaceous

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I love that fluid dynamics can bring new insights to other subjects, like this study on how heavily-armored ankylosaurs avoided heat stroke. Scans of ankylosaur skulls show a complicated, twisty nasal cavity that researchers likened to a child’s crazy straw. Using numerical simulations, they showed that the airflow through these passages acts like a heat exchanger. As air gets drawn into its body, it warms up from exposure to blood vessels lining the nasal cavity; that means that, simultaneously, the hot blood is getting cooled. Those blood vessels lead up to the animal’s brain, indicating that these twisted cavities essentially serve as air-conditioning for the sauropod’s brain! (Image and video credit: Scientific American; research credit: J. Bourke et al.; via J. Ouellette)

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