How Did Dinosaurs Sound? – Update 2

What’s Been Keeping Me Busy?

In the past few weeks, I did a lot of research on the biological and evolutionary evidence for dinosaur sound production. I found a number of fascinating papers. Topics range from bony tongues to skull shape to air sinuses.

Understanding these articles is another matter. The language was far more technical than I was prepared for. There were a ton of crazy anatomical terms that I never heard of. Even the pictures were complicated! However, I did my best to glean as much information as I could.

If you’re interested in reading what I found, feel free to follow this link to my list of useful papers.

What I Discovered

  • Hadrosaurs with hollow crests “blew their horns” to produce low-frequency sounds
  • There’s no hard evidence to suggest that dinosaurs had voice boxes (syrinx or larynx)
    • But soft tissue doesn’t fossilize, so it’s still possible they had voice boxes
  • We can estimate a dinosaur’s range of hearing based on the inner-ear anatomy
  • Dinosaurs didn’t sing like birds do
  • Tongues probably didn’t play a role in dinosaur vocalization
  • The bio-mechanics of respiration and skull structure affected sound production
  • Much vocal behavior was probably performed with a closed mouth

What’s the Next Step?

So far, I conducted two interviews. The first was with Dr. David Weishampel. This paleontologist taught at Johns Hopkins and specializes in paleobiology. The second was with David Yingling. This sound designer for video games worked on Primal Carnage – a human vs dinosaur multiplayer game. This coming week, I have another interview set up with Emmy-nominated sound designer Gina Zdanowicz.

I emailed a large number of other sound designers and paleontologists, but getting in direct contact is harder than I expected… Hopefully, I’ll speak to a few more people before I have to call it quits.

Stay posted for further updates!


  1. ajfantine says:

    Wow, this is a super interesting project! I love how you’re utilizing a variety of sources and experts to gather data, because with something like this, it can be hard to hone in on one objective “truth” as to what dinosaurs sounded like. I especially like you use of sound designers from media industries, since the portrayal of dinosaurs in the media is often sensationalized to make them a more “epic” blockbuster event. I look forward to seeing how you compare and contrast the different information from the different sources. With all the evolutionary connections between dinosaurs and birds, such as recent discoveries regarding raptors being feathered, I wonder how much of their makeup was reptilian in nature? You noted that they don’t sing like birds and their vocal behavior was performed with a closed mouth, which are both indicative of reptiles. Also, I had no idea of the intricacies of noise making; it is such an interesting concept to explore and I’m excited to read more about it! I hope you make those interviews you had available somewhere because I’d love to read/listen to them. Good luck with the rest of your project!