Alligators On Ketamine Help Scientists Understand How Dinosaurs' Ears Worked

Scientists injected alligators with ketamine and equipped them with earphones to help them understand how dinosaurs' hearing worked.

Due to the fact dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago, the human race actually knows very little about them. Yes, we can study fossils, bones, and remains, but that will only tell scientists so much. In order to discover more, we need to study creatures that shared the planet with the massive reptiles which once roamed it, and animals that have descended from dinosaurs.

One group of animals we know to have wandered the Earth with dinosaurs are crocodilians. Crocodilians is the umbrella term for both alligators and crocodiles, handy for when you're next looking at one and can't tell the difference between them. Scientists recently used crocodilians to try and understand how a dinosaur's hearing worked, something we currently know very little about.

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via Earth.com

It's believed that alligators and birds have a common ancestor, the archosaur, reports The Independent. The archosaur existed around 246 million years ago and branched off into two evolutionary lineages, birds and alligators. Even though those animals have very different head sizes, it's assumed that the similar way in which the very different animals hear was developed all the way back during the time of the archosaur.

To get a better understanding of how exactly the alligator's ancestors heard, scientists anesthetized 40 alligators using ketamine and then fitted them with earphones. They then played various sounds and tones through the earphones while monitoring the responses of a brain stem called the nucleus laminaris. The research showed that the reptiles hear and process sound in a very similar way to barn owls and chickens, but very differently to how mammals hear.

Studies such as this one don't just allow us to understand more about dinosaurs, but also about evolutionary traits and the animals which walk among us today. Well, maybe not among us in the case of alligators, but you get what we mean. Plus, it further confirms that alligators and certain species of bird likely came from the same creature dating back almost 250 million years. Fascinating stuff.

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