Dinosaurs are cool, but do you ever wonder what they sounded like?
Are they like Jurassic Park’s iconic creatures? Do they sound like giraffes?
(Do giraffes even make sound?)
Turns out, we have no clue.
But Dr. Julia Clarke, a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, is on the case! She’s spent her career digging deep to figure out how these ancient animals communicated and evolved into birds.
The Journey of a Pioneering Paleontologist
Dr. Julia Clarke grew up with a passion for the natural world. After completing her undergraduate degree at Brown University, she earned her PhD in Geology and Geophysics at Yale University.
As a professor in Vertebrate Paleontology in the Jackson School of Geosciences, Dr. Clarke focuses on the evolution of birds and their dinosaur ancestors. She is renowned for integrating cutting-edge technologies, such as CT scanning and 3D modeling, with traditional paleontological methods to unlock the secrets of ancient creatures.
Vegavis: A Glimpse into Avian Evolution
Vegavis iaai, a bird that lived approximately 66-68 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period, represents one of Dr. Clarke’s most significant discoveries. Unearthed on Vega Island in the Antarctic Peninsula, Vegavis provides critical evidence of the diversification of modern bird groups before the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs.
This bird is particularly important because it belongs to the Anseriformes group, which includes modern ducks, geese, and swans. The discovery of Vegavis demonstrates that the diversification of modern bird groups had already commenced before the famous Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, which wiped out the majority of dinosaurs approximately 66 million years ago.
Deciphering Dinosaur Vocalizations
Remarkably, this ancient bird’s fossilized remains included the oldest known syrinx, offering an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the soundscape of the Cretaceous period. The syrinx is composed of cartilage rings and soft tissue, which vibrate to create sound when air is expelled from the lungs. Unlike mammals, birds do not have vocal cords; instead, their vocalizations are produced by the syrinx.
Her research suggests that the development of the syrinx was a critical factor in the diversification and success of modern birds, as it enabled a wide range of vocalizations for communication, mate attraction, and territory defense.
Hear From The Good Doctor Herself
We highly recommend watching Dr. Clarke deliver her talk for Carnegie Science, titled “The Secret Lives of Dinosaurs”.
In this engaging lecture, Dr. Clarke delves into the cutting-edge toolkits she employs to study what dinosaurs might have sounded or looked like when they roamed the Earth and roundly answers the question of what it would be like if dinosaurs were alive today.
Get a world-class education right now and learn from one of the leading experts in the field of paleontology, and be prepared to see dinosaurs in a whole new light!