It is lengthy been believed that Tyrannosaurus rex was a meat-eating maniac whereas long-necked dinosaurs serenely chomped away at leaves within the background. Nonetheless, a brand new research means that dinosaurs’ diets had been much more diversified than beforehand thought.
To get a greater concept of what totally different dinosaurs really ate, paleobiologists from the College of Bristol in England examined CT (computed tomography) scans of the skulls of a number of dinosaur genera, together with small bipedal Thecodontosaurus and long-necked Diplodocus, each thought-about herbivores, and created 3D fashions of their enamel.
“Enamel may give good clues about what an animal eats as a result of they’re our instruments to interrupt down meals,” Antonio Ballell Mayoral (opens in new tab), the research’s lead writer and a senior analysis affiliate within the Faculty of Earth Sciences on the College of Bristol, instructed Dwell Science in an e mail. “As such, it is anticipated that totally different tooth shapes will likely be environment friendly at processing totally different sorts of meals objects.
“In dinosaurs, we see a powerful range of tooth varieties, together with blade-like, conical, triangular, leaf-shaped, and many others.,” he added. “This is a sign that dinosaurs advanced totally different feeding habits and specialised into a variety of diets. Apparently, many of those totally different sorts of tooth shapes had been already current within the earliest dinosaurs, suggesting they may have been fairly various.”
Researchers then in contrast the form and performance (chunk power) of dinosaur enamel to these of dwelling reptiles, akin to totally different species of lizard, together with monitor lizards and skinks, in addition to geckos, snakes and crocodiles.
Associated: Ravenous meat-eating dinosaur’s guts preserved in exceptionally uncommon fossil
“Our information of the connection between tooth form and weight-reduction plan relies on info from dwelling species,” Ballell Mayoral mentioned. “As an illustration, sharp and curved enamel are higher at piercing and chopping smooth meals objects like meat, and they’re typical of carnivores. However, straight enamel with denticles [serrations] are extra environment friendly at breaking down harder objects like some vegetation and bug exoskeleton, and so they’re current in herbivores and insectivores.”
For example, Ballell Mayoral pointed to the consuming habits of a few of the earliest recognized dinosaurs, together with bipedal theropods, armored ornithischians and long-necked sauropodomorphs.
“A number of the early dinosaurs [such as theropods] that had been categorized as carnivores in our research have enamel that are just like these of monitor lizards, being pointy, curved and finely serrated,” he mentioned. “In distinction, iguanas have spear-shaped enamel with coarse denticles that resemble these of the early dinosaurs categorized as herbivores [like the ornithischians and sauropodomorphs.]”
In impact, the ancestors of plant-eating dinosaurs did not limit themselves to the salad bar. Reasonably, they had been doubtless chowing down on meat and bugs, identical to the predators that preyed on them.
The researchers discovered that lots of the earliest dinosaurs adopted “totally different dietary habits” that had been a “essential issue that permits teams of organisms to diversify,” he mentioned.
“This research is the primary one to show with fashionable statistical strategies that early dinosaurs explored totally different sorts of diets and had been ecologically various,” he mentioned. “Our analysis helps that two of the three most important dinosaur lineages, which tailored to a weight-reduction plan of vegetation, didn’t begin off as herbivores. The sauropodomorphs, early relations of Diplodocus and different long-necked giants, transitioned from carnivory to herbivory throughout the Triassic interval. And the earliest ornithischians, which gave rise to veggie dinosaurs like Triceratops and the duck-billed dinosaurs a lot later, might need most popular an omnivorous weight-reduction plan.”
And sure, T. rex actually was a meat lover.
The findings had been printed Dec. 16 within the journal Science Advances (opens in new tab).