Evolution of vision and hearing modalities in theropod dinosaurs

Jonah N. Choiniere, James M. Neenan, Lars Schmitz, David P. Ford, Kimberley E.J. Chapelle, Amy M. Balanoff, Justin S. Sipla, Justin A. Georgi, Stig A. Walsh, Mark A. Norell, Xing Xu, James M. Clark, Roger B.J. Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Owls and nightbirds are nocturnal hunters of active prey that combine visual and hearing adaptations to overcome limits on sensory performance in low light. Such sensory innovations are unknown in nonavialan theropod dinosaurs and are poorly characterized on the line that leads to birds. We investigate morphofunctional proxies of vision and hearing in living and extinct theropods and demonstrate deep evolutionary divergences of sensory modalities. Nocturnal predation evolved early in the nonavialan lineage Alvarezsauroidea, signaled by extreme low-light vision and increases in hearing sensitivity. The Late Cretaceous alvarezsauroid Shuvuuia deserti had even further specialized hearing acuity, rivaling that of today's barn owl. This combination of sensory adaptations evolved independently in dinosaurs long before the modern bird radiation and provides a notable example of convergence between dinosaurs and mammals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)610-613
Number of pages4
Issue number6542
StatePublished - May 7 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Evolution of vision and hearing modalities in theropod dinosaurs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this