Because so many dinosaur remains have been lost to time, paleontologists are likely just beginning to unravel the internal architecture of these mysterious animals. Even the most advanced models of dinosaur physiology pale in comparison to real flesh—not to mention the complex dynamics of active tissue in motion, says Nicole Xu, who studies the fluid mechanics of animal tissue at Stanford University, but was not involved in the new research. Future research may be able to incorporate some of these subtleties, Xu adds.

For now, the researchers’ new reconstructions have brought us closer to uncovering how dinosaurs dealt with the extremes of their environment—and may just breathe new life into creatures of a long-gone era. “The nose isn’t the flashiest part of any dinosaur,” Bourke says. “But it’s turning out to be a spyhole to look into their lives.”

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