It’s always fun when new research completely shatters an assumption you didn’t even know you had. Dear reader, if you’ll humor me for a moment, picture a dinosaur of your choosing and place that dinosaur into the environment it might have lived in. If you are like me, you subconsciously imagined that dinosaur under a bright sun. But it turns out that at least a few species of ancient reptiles had the sensory abilities to live and hunt at night.

Lars Schmitz is on a team of paleontologists who have uncovered the best evidence yet for a nocturnal dinosaur. Shuvuuia deserti, a tiny predatory relative of Tyrannosaurus rex, had eyesight and hearing that likely rivaled those of modern-day owls. In his story, Schmitz describes the innovative techniques his team used to measure the senses of an animal from 60 million years ago and why it makes sense that dinosaurs would have roamed under the stars.

Also today:

Daniel Merino

Assistant Editor: Science, Health, Environment; Co-Host: The Conversation Weekly Podcast

Fossils of Shuvuuia deserti depict a small predatory creature with exceptional night vision and hearing. Mick Ellison/American Natural History Museum

Nocturnal dinosaurs: Night vision and superb hearing in a small theropod suggest it was a moonlight predator

Lars Schmitz, Scripps College; Jonah Choiniere, University of the Witwatersrand; Roger Benson, University of Oxford

By looking at the eye bones and ear canals of extinct dinosaurs, researchers show that a small ancient predator likely hunted at night and had senses as good as a modern barn owl.

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