Partner Series
How Did Dinosaurs Communicate?
Dinosaurs may have used dancing, singing, headgear or plumage to communicate.
Credit: Michael Skrepnick.

Dinosaurs definitely didn’t have email and text messages to keep in touch with friends, but scientists are quite certain that there was dialogue among the beasts.

Clues from the fossil record and related living animals, such as birds and crocodiles, hint at the ways the ancient creatures communicated, said Thomas Williamson, curator of paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

For instance, low-frequency sounds made by living crocodilians, despite their lack of vocal organs, are known to travel great distances.

Extinct dinosaurs, like their living relatives — modern birds, may have "talked" via song, dance and colorful plumage.

The horns, frills and crests that adorned dinosaur heads may have been used for mating rituals or to intimidate rivals.

Some duckbilled dinosaurs, called hadrosaurs, had elaborate crests that contained long and resonant extensions of the breathing tracts. Williamson and colleagues found that these crests are naturally resonant and could easily produce low-frequency sounds.

“Based on the physical properties of the bones that transmitted sound between the eardrums and middle ear, we know that these dinosaurs were capable of hearing the sounds produced by the crests of other hadrosaurs,” Williamson told LiveScience.

The extremely long tails of Diplodocus and other sauropod dinosaurs could also have made some noise. Some researchers have suggested that the tips of these tails could have been flicked at supersonic speeds, making bullwhip-like cracking sounds that may have traveled long distances.

“The Mesozoic must have been an amazing place, made all the more noisy and colorful by the communications of dinosaurs,” said Williamson.

Follow Life's Little Mysteries on Twitter @llmysteries. We're also on Facebook & Google+.