Pacific Science Center

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PacSci-Doku: “Big Birds”

By Dennis Schatz – Senior Advisor

Do you Sudoku? It’s one of the hottest number games around! Well, here’s a twist we think you’ll love. We call it PacSci-Doku. Can you guess why? Here’s how it works. Instead of filling in the blanks with numbers, we use letters. Hidden in one of the columns or rows is the answer to a science question. You’ll find information about the answer on the answer tab below.

The question in this edition is:

What animal is an early ancestor of the today’s bird?

To find the answer, complete this PacSci-Doku using the following nine letters:

U  O  I  A  R  S  s  D  N

PacSci-Doku: "Big Birds"

Puzzle Difficulty: Medium

The Answer

PacSci-Doku: "Big Birds" AnswerThe question in this edition is:

What animal is an early ancestor of the today’s bird?

The answer: Dinosaurs

In 1861 scientists discovered the fossilized remains of Archaeopteryx preserved in limestone in Germany. This creature lived 145 million years ago. It had the bone structure of a dinosaur, but also had feathers. In recent years other dinosaurs have been discovered with feathers. Scientists looking at the shape of the rib cage from dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex noticed another similarity to today’s birds. They have rib bones that are longer near the bottom of the rib cage. This may have allowed them to have large air sacs that were attached to the lungs, as seen in today’s birds. If dinosaurs had air sacks like the birds, they took two breaths to move air through their respiratory system. When the dinosaur first inhaled, air filled the air sacks. When they then exhaled, the air moved into the lungs instead of leaving the body. With the second inhale, the air in the lungs moved back into air sacs. With the second exhale, the air finally left the body. This “two-step breathing” kept more air moving through the dinosaur’s body longer. This extra air supplied the oxygen needed for the high-energy lifestyle of many dinosaurs. Most scientists now believe that the dinosaurs didn’t die out after all. Their descendants are alive and well today as birds. Learn more about the relationship between dinosaurs and birds.

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