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 examine means that dinosaurs’ diets have been much more diversified than beforehand thought.
To get a greater concept of what completely 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 examine’s lead writer and a senior analysis affiliate within the College of Earth Sciences on the College of Bristol, advised Reside Science in an electronic mail. “As such, it is anticipated that completely different tooth shapes might be environment friendly at processing completely different sorts of meals gadgets.
“In dinosaurs, we see a formidable variety of tooth sorts, together with blade-like, conical, triangular, leaf-shaped, and so forth.,” he added. “This is a sign that dinosaurs developed completely different feeding habits and specialised into a variety of diets. Apparently, many of those completely different sorts of tooth shapes have been already current within the earliest dinosaurs, suggesting they could have been fairly numerous.”
Researchers then in contrast the form and performance (chunk drive) of dinosaur enamel to these of dwelling reptiles, comparable to completely 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 is predicated on data from dwelling species,” Ballell Mayoral mentioned. “As an example, sharp and curved enamel are higher at piercing and reducing gentle meals gadgets like meat, and they’re typical of carnivores. Alternatively, straight enamel with denticles [serrations] are extra environment friendly at breaking down harder gadgets 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 number of the earliest identified dinosaurs, together with bipedal theropods, armored ornithischians and long-necked sauropodomorphs.
“A number of the early dinosaurs [such as theropods] that have been labeled as carnivores in our examine have enamel that are much 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 labeled as herbivores [like the ornithischians and sauropodomorphs.]”
In impact, the ancestors of plant-eating dinosaurs did not prohibit themselves to the salad bar. Relatively, they have been possible chowing down on meat and bugs, identical to the predators that preyed on them.
The researchers discovered that lots of the earliest dinosaurs adopted “completely different dietary habits” that have been a “crucial issue that enables teams of organisms to diversify,” he mentioned.
“This examine is the primary one to reveal with trendy statistical strategies that early dinosaurs explored completely different sorts of diets and have been ecologically numerous,” he mentioned. “Our analysis helps that two of the three primary dinosaur lineages, which tailored to a weight-reduction plan of vegetation, didn’t begin off as herbivores. The sauropodomorphs, early family members of Diplodocus and different long-necked giants, transitioned from carnivory to herbivory through 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 well-liked an omnivorous weight-reduction plan.”
And sure, T. rex actually was a meat lover.
The findings have been revealed Dec. 16 within the journal Science Advances (opens in new tab).