Washington, August 15 : A new research has suggested that a small dinosaur, known as Hypsilophodon foxii, could run as fast as an Olympian athlete, and possessed a special adaptation that prevented its ribs from rattling during its dash.
According to a report in Discovery News, the find yields both bad and good news for the plant-eating dino.
The bad is that scientists now believe it did not possess impressive body armor, as had previously been suspected.
The good is they now think the thin mineralized plates that had earlier been identified as evidence for armor were actually cartilage tissues that may have helped to regulate breathing, especially during periods of extreme physical exertion.
"Hypsilophodon had elongated legs and a stiffened counterbalancing tail that suggest it was almost certainly a fast runner," Richard Butler, who co-authored the study with Peter Galton, told Discovery News.
Butler added that it is possible "the plates might have functioned to support the ribcage during fast running."
He and his colleague had multiple skeletons to analyze, since the dinosaur, whose name means "high-crested tooth," was one of the earliest ever discovered, having been named in 1869.
Based on multiple specimens from southern England, primarily the Lower Cretaceous Wealden Group region of the Isle of Wight, it's believed that this was one of the most common dinosaurs in the area from around 132 to 125 million years ago.
Butler and Galton noticed that the supposed body armor on the dinosaur actually consisted of weakly constructed plates that overlaid, but were not fused to, the ribs.
Butler explained that other scientists assumed "that as the body of the dead Hypsilophodon individual rotted and collapsed, the bones from the skin came to be closely associated with the internal bones."
"Our careful reexamination of the specimens shows, however, that the bony plates are always closely associated with the outside surface of the ribs from the front end of the ribcage and are certainly not armor," he said.
He and Galton instead believe the plates were similar to bony structures, called "uncinate processes," seen in the ribcages of birds today.
Since this feature is involved in bird ribcage support, facilitating movement and breathing, the scientists now suspect the structures played a similar role in the dinosaur.