AUSTIN, Texas, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- New research suggests dinosaurs couldn't sing, at least not in the way moderns do.
Scientists say a newly discovered ancient voice box, the world's oldest vocal organ, serves as proof that nonavian dinosaurs were without the ability to sing. The organ, called a syrinx, likely appeared late in the evolution of birds.
Researchers discovered this 66-million-year-old fossil on Antarctica's Vega Island in 1992, but scientists only recently realized it featured a preserved syrinx. The ancient voice box belongs to the species Vegavis iaai, an early relative of ducks and geese.
"This finding helps explain why no such organ has been preserved in a nonbird dinosaur or crocodile relative," Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas, said in a news release. "This is another important step to figuring out what dinosaurs sounded like as well as giving us insight into the evolution of birds."
An analysis of the organ's size and structure suggests its owner generated honking sounds via vibrations originating in the left and right portions of the voice box. Characterizing the tone of said honks won't be possible without further analysis of early syrinxes.
"Here, we begin to outline how fossilizable characteristics of the syrinx may inform us about sound features, but we need a lot more data on living birds," Goller said. "Remarkably, prior to this work, there is almost no discussion of these important questions."
Though the latest findings -- detailed in the journal Nature -- suggest dinosaurs didn't sing, that doesn't mean they were silent. Clarke and her colleagues previously published research suggesting dinosaurs made closed-mouth cooing and purring sounds like doves and ostriches.