Dinosaur Doggerel (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 21 Nov 2013

Dinosaur Doggerel

I woke up thinking about dinosaurs.

Specifically, Pachycephalosaurus, the bone-headed dinosaur, and her long-crested cousin Parasaurolophus (pictured at right).

The previous night, I had been reading The Know-It-All, A. J. Jacob's entertaining account of his adventures reading the whole Encyclopedia Britannica. I'd left off in the Ps, which included a very short entry on Pachycephalosaurus (A.J. is not particularly into dinosaurs).

Drifting along in a typical insomniac "I wish I could get back to sleep" haze, I couldn't help noticing that Parasaurolophus was six syllables -- in fact, it was a double dactyl.

And that meant it was a prime candidate for my favorite verse form, double-dactylic doggerel, a form with fairly strict rules which require, among other things, that the second line be a double-dactylic proper name. And as double-dactylic junkies know, once you've noticed a double-dactylic name, you can't rest until it's turned into a poem.

So now I couldn't sleep because I was thinking about Parasaurolophus. Now, even aside from its mellifluous name, Parasaurolophus and the whole Hadrosaur family are pretty interesting. The biggest puzzle is why they had those elaborate bony crests. Decoration for mating purposes? Fighting, like horns and antlers on modern hoofed mammals? But in the late 1990s, CT scans of hadrosaur fossils revealed long air passages inside the crests of many Hadrosaurs, including Parasaurolophus ... and those air passages were connected to the nasal passages. That led to suggestions that the crests might have been tuned for sound production -- a built-in wind instrument.

[computer model of Parasaurolophus crest] In Scientists Use Digital Paleontology to Produce Voice of Parasaurolophus Dinosaur a team at Sandia made computer models of the air passages, and you can even listen to sound files of what Parasaurolophus might have sounded like. The sound is wonderful, like a trombone. Sandia's pages use a, <embed> tag that didn't work for me in Firefox, so if you have trouble with their links, I've separated out the wav file URLs: songLQ.wav (588k) and a higher quality version, song2.wav (2.7M).

Anyway, I never did get back to sleep, but I did end up with some insomniacal doggerel:

Dinosaur, schminosaur
Parasaurolophus
How do you use that
Magnificent crest?
"I play trombone in the
Dinosaur orchestra
All hadrosaurs play, but
I am the best."

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[ 15:49 Nov 21, 2013    More writing | permalink to this entry | comments ]
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