Every time I walk past the Science Centre’s loading bay these days, I am reminded of my childhood in Switzerland. That’s because the sounds I hear are very similar to those you hear when walking past a cow shed full of Swiss Browns waiting to be milked.
We don’t keep cows in our loading bay, of course, but just one door removed from that area is the SCS Annex, which currently houses the Dinosaurs-Live! exhibition. And for some reason, the Stegosauruses in that exhibition sound just like cows.
We have no reason to doubt that Stegosaurus mooed like a cow. But we have no reason to believe that it did, either. The problem is that most modern animals – including those most closely related to dinosaurs – vocalise (ie make sounds) using organs like the larynx (crocodiles) or the syrinx (birds). These are made of soft tissue and do not fossilise, so we have no way of knowing if dinosaurs had anything like that.
Some dinosaurs, like Parasaurolophus and Lambeosaurus, are thought to have used the crests on their heads as resonating chambers for trumpeting. In other words, there may have been dinosaurs which evolved their own ways to make sound, but most of them show no signs of such special instruments. Personally, I doubt that every creature in our exhibition really had its own voice. But in the absence of any evidence, I guess we can just enjoy the chorus. And one of these days I might just try to milk one of the Stegosauruses…