Dinosaur senses

Both plant-eating and meat-eating dinosaurs needed their senses to find food. How do you search for tasty plants to eat while remaining aware of any stalking predators? How do you find your plant-eating prey when they may be camoflaged or in hiding? Which senses would be most helpful to different kinds of dinosaurs?

Leaellynasaura skull cast

 © Australian Museum

Herbivore senses

Sight:
  • eyes were on the sides of the head for a wide view of surroundings
  • vision was probably in colour like birds and most living reptiles
Smell:
  • olfactory lobes (part of the brain responsible for the sense of smell) were enlarged in some, indicating smell was an important sense
  • sense of smell was used to find plants or detect predators or possible mates
Hearing:
  • small plant-eaters probably heard higher frequencies, which was useful for pinpointing the location of a predator and warning calls from other dinosaurs
  • large plant-eaters probably heard lower frequencies, which was useful for communicating over long distances
  • external ears would have been similar in appearance to those of living birds and reptiles

Carnivore senses

Sight:

  • some had relatively big, forward-facing eyes used to judge distances to prey
  • vision was probably in colour like birds and most living reptiles
Smell:
  • olfactory lobes (part of the brain responsible for the sense of smell) were enlarged in some, indicating smell was an important sense
  • sense of smell was used to find prey and detect predators or possible mates
Hearing:
  • external ears would have been similar in appearance to those of living birds and reptiles
  • structure and large size of middle ear cavities suggests some theropods heard low frequency sounds, useful for detecting far-off prey

How did the sight of a meat-eating dinosaur differ from that of a plant-eating dinosaur?

  • Theropods generally had forward-facing eyes. This resulted in a relatively wide range of binocular vision (the eyes work together to produce one image) and a narrow range of monocular vision. They may also have had stereoscopic vision which means their eyes judged exact distances to objects or prey (known as depth perception).
  • Most plant-eating dinosaurs had eyes on the sides of their heads. This resulted in a wide range of monocular vision (the eyes work independently to produce two separate images) and a very narrow range of binocular vision.


Last Updated:

Tags dinosaurs, senses, sight, hearing, smell, vision, carnivores, herbivores, meat-eating, plant-eating,