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Dinosaurs much smaller than once believed, scientist says

Researchers study modern animals' body mass, extrapolate that to fossils.

Brachiosaurus dinosaurs lighter than believedEnlarge
A brachiosaurus skull sits in the Natural History Museum in Berlin, Germany, on July 13, 2007. The centerpiece is the world's largest mounted dinosaur skeleton, a brachiosaurus brancai, at more than 50-feet long and 42-feet tall. (Alexander Hassenstein/AFP/Getty Images)

Dinosaurs aren’t fat, they’re just big boned.

A new study using laser technology to reconstruct the giant creatures theorizes they were much lighter than previously believed.

University of Manchester researchers studied how much skin surrounds animals such as polar bears and elephants, and then extrapolated that over dinosaur skeletons.

“Our method provides a much more accurate measure and shows dinosaurs, while still huge, are not as big as previously thought,” Bill Sellers told The Telegraph.

The team’s research appears in the journal Biology Letters

They traveled to Berlin's Natural History museum, and measured the fossil of a brachiosaurus using the laser scan.

Once estimated at 176,000 pounds, Sellers and his team now suggest the dinosaur actually weighed only 51,150 pounds, The Los Angeles Times said.

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Sellers said that's consistent with modern science, which has steadily dropped weight estimates for dinosaurs since the 1960s.

The study found modern animals have 21 percent more body mass than the minimum amount of skin required to wrap their skeletons, Discovery News said.

Heinrich Mallison, a paleontologist at the Berlin museum, hailed the research as groundbreaking.

It’s “a brilliant approach: not trying to estimate soft tissues, but finding out how much a bone-only model underestimates the entire animal’s mass,” he told Discovery.

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