Pawpawsaurus lived some 35 million years before that sturdy-backed creature. It was armored similarly – bony plates along its back and even on its eyelids - but, alas, it had no club on the end of its tail.
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All hope was not lost, however. It turns out the animal may have gotten by with a little help from its nose.
The CT scans allowed the researchers to use software to reconstruct the Pawpawsaurus' skull and then study its sense of hearing and smell.
They found that Pawpawsaurus didn't have a sense of smell as sharp as Ankylosaurus, but it was good enough to get by – better, say the researchers, than some other predators of its day.
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"Pawpawsaurus in particular and the group it belonged to – Nodosauridae – had no flocculus, a structure of the brain involved with motor skills, no club tail, and a reduced nasal cavity and portion of the inner ear when compared with the other family of ankylosaurs," said study co-author Paulina-Carabajal in a statement.
"But its sense of smell was very important, as it probably relied on that to look for food, find mates and avoid or flee predators," the scientist from the Biodiversity and Environment Research Institute in Argentina added.
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The researchers noted the key contribution of CT scanning technology in their study.
"CT imaging has allowed us to delve into the intricacies of the brains of extinct animals, especially dinosaurs, to unlock secrets of their ways of life," said study co-author and Southern Methodist University vertebrate paleontologist Louis Jacobs.
"We can observe the complete nasal cavity morphology with the CT scans," added Paulina-Carabajal.
Pawpawsaurus' brain case had never before been studied in such detail and the scans drew a picture of the animal's sensory pluses and minuses.
"The CT scans revealed an enlarged nasal cavity compared to dinosaurs other than ankylosaurians. That may have helped Pawpawsaurus bellow out a lower range of vocalizations, improved its sense of smell, and cooled the inflow of air to regulate the temperature of blood flowing into the brain."
The researchers findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.