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Proc Biol Sci. 2009 May 7;276(1662):1731-6. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.1735. Epub 2009 Feb 25.

Allometry of visceral organs in living amniotes and its implications for sauropod dinosaurs.

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University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 260, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


Allometric equations are often used to extrapolate traits in animals for which only body mass estimates are known, such as dinosaurs. One important decision can be whether these equations should be based on mammal, bird or reptile data. To address whether this choice will have a relevant influence on reconstructions, we compared allometric equations for birds and mammals from the literature to those for reptiles derived from both published and hitherto unpublished data. Organs studied included the heart, kidneys, liver and gut, as well as gut contents. While the available data indicate that gut content mass does not differ between the clades, the organ masses for reptiles are generally lower than those for mammals and birds. In particular, gut tissue mass is significantly lower in reptiles. When applying the results in the reconstruction of a sauropod dinosaur, the estimated volume of the coelomic cavity greatly exceeds the estimated volume of the combined organ masses, irrespective of the allometric equation used. Therefore, substantial deviation of sauropod organ allometry from that of the extant vertebrates can be allowed conceptually. Extrapolations of retention times from estimated gut contents mass and food intake do not suggest digestive constraints on sauropod dinosaur body size.

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