Plant-eating dinosaurs snacked on crustaceans

Rodiano Bonacci
Settembre 24, 2017

Researcher say that some of the coprolites turned up thick bits and pieces of fossilized shell, an indication crustaceans were living in the decaying, coniferous wood. And as we all know, birds are descended from dinosaurs.

The study by scientists at Colorado Boulder's Museum of Natural History points out that this is was a surprising discovery because it was a totally unexpected behavior. Ten different samples of dino poo were discovered across three stratigraphic layers at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, by a team from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Funding for the project came from both CU Boulder and Kent State University. Some of the coprolites examined were probably around two gallons in volume, Chin said. Analysis of the crustacean remnants in the dino poo suggest they were about two inches in length, maybe larger. Individual crustaceans comprised from 20 to 60 percent of the width of a common hadrosaur beak, suggesting it was unlikely the crustaceans were unwittingly swallowed, she said. For at least part of the year these duck-billed dinosaurs may have munched on rotting logs because they contained stores of crustaceans and other invertebrates, Chin said. Present day Utah was situated near a sea during the Cretaceous, which explains the source of the crustaceans.

The researchers think eating crustaceans may have been a seasonal dietary change linked to breeding and egg-laying.

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"Rotting wood and fungal tissues would have offered useful nutritional compounds such as cellulose and fiber, and the crustaceans would have provided good sources of protein and calcium". Some birds, the evolutionary descendants of dinosaurs, consume more protein and calcium during breeding season. Chin and her colleagues sliced the coprolite samples into thin sections, and then analysed the slices with an electron microscope to determine chemical composition, which included plenty of calcium.

Hadrosaurs were one of the most common dinosaur type of the Cretaceous, growing up to 30 feet long and weighing up to three tons. They also had specialized teeth for grinding plant material, and are thought by some paleontologists to have roamed in herds and nurtured their young. Some species had characteristic crests on their heads.

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