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Research Article

Estimating Mass Properties of Dinosaurs Using Laser Imaging and 3D Computer Modelling

  • Karl T. Bates mail,

    karl.bates@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk

    Affiliation: Adaptive Organismal Biology Research Group, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Jackson's Mill, Manchester, United Kingdom

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  • Phillip L. Manning,

    Affiliations: The Manchester Museum, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Science, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom

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  • David Hodgetts,

    Affiliation: School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Science, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom

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  • William I. Sellers

    Affiliation: Adaptive Organismal Biology Research Group, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Jackson's Mill, Manchester, United Kingdom

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  • Published: February 19, 2009
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004532
  • Published in PLOS ONE

Reader Comments (7)

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Great potential for follow-up studies

Posted by AndyFarke on 22 Feb 2009 at 05:23 GMT

This article presents an interesting first step, and leaves the door open for a variety of additional sensitivity analyses/follow-up studies. For instance, what if the head or tail changed position? What if the trunk was held at more of an angle, rather than perpendicular to the ground? How much are the calculations of center of mass affected by other postural uncertainties? This is alluded to by the authors, and rightfully deemed outside the scope of the study, but it would be a very interesting follow-up.

It would also be interesting to generate more models of extant animals, and complete sensitivity analyses similar to those used for dinosaurs. Even if live weights are unknown for the modern animals providing osteological mounts, it might be possible to scale the mass of the estimated animal to a disarticulated skeleton of similar proportions. It would be very nice to know what percent error might be inherent in the method--do the values from sensitivity analysis overlap those from reality, and by how much?

One important point is that the accuracy of the mass estimates is highly dependent on the accuracy of the skeletal mounts. The mounts used here are pretty good, but anyone wanting to use this method in the future would want to be careful about which mounts are used. Of course, the digital nature of the data would allow some adjustment (for instance, if the rib cage is overinflated, etc.).


RE: Great potential for follow-up studies

mbexekb3 replied to AndyFarke on 22 Feb 2009 at 15:07 GMT

Very good points, especially regarding the accuracy of the mount/articulation of the skeleton. We have recently completed a follow-up study in which we extend the sensitivity analysis to include uncertainties related to the articulation of certain parts of the dinosaur skeleton. We've used a 95% skeleton to this and played with increased/decreased flare in the rib cage and intervertebral spacings. The paper is currently in review.