Paleontologists have found that one of the dinosaurs of the Alvaressaurus group could hunt at night, like owls. His sight and hearing were in line with the modern barn owl.
An international team of scientists used computed tomography and detailed measurements to gather information about the relative size of the eyes and inner ear of nearly 100 living birds and extinct dinosaur species. During the study, it was found that many carnivorous theropods, such as Tyrannosaurus and Dromaeosaurus, have their vision optimized for daytime. However, a tiny theropod called Shuvuuia deserti (desert shuvuya), which was part of the Alvaressaur group, possessed not only night vision, but also extraordinary hearing. Scientists have named this species “dinosaur owl”.
Recall that Shuvuya is a genus of bird-like theropod dinosaurs, whose fossils have been found in the Upper Cretaceous deposits of Mongolia. It is a member of the superfamily Alvarezsauroidea, small coelurosaurs. The type and only species is Shuvuuia deserti. The name comes from the Mongolian shuvuu, bird.
Shuvuuia deserti was a small chicken-sized dinosaur that lived in the deserts of what is now Mongolia. The skeleton of Shuvuuia deserti is one of the most bizarre of all dinosaurs. His skull is fragile. However, it possesses muscular front legs with one claw each and long legs. This strange combination of properties has baffled scientists since its discovery in the 1990s. With the new data, the scientific team hypothesized that, like many desert animals, the Shuvuya foraged at night using hearing and sight to find prey. For example, he ate small mammals and insects.
The combination of light-sensitive eyes and superior hearing suggests that the Shuvuya, like owls, was very effective in locating prey and setting ambushes at night. For comparison, the theropod velociraptor, which lived in the Gobi Desert near Shuvuya, could hunt at dusk, but not in the dark, the authors of a new study note.