Dozens of bite marks have been found on the fossilized remains of sauropods at a site in the United States.
The new study, published in the journal Peer J, reveals surprising insights into the feeding habits of carnivorous dinosaurs that roamed North America during the Jurassic period around 150 million years ago.
Scientists examined bite marks left on the ancient bones of Diplodocus and Brontosaurus – some of the largest creatures to ever roam Earth – at the Morrison Formation in Colorado.
The tooth-marked bones provided “invaluable insights” into the feeding behaviors of long-extinct carnivorous dinosaurs.
While it is commonly thought that the giant tyrannosaurs were the primary culprits behind the tell-tale marks on the bones, the research took a closer look at other large carnivores’ contributions to the paleontological puzzle.
The new study revealed that 68 sauropod bones from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation bear “unmistakable” bite traces attributed to theropods.
The findings suggest that while bite traces on large sauropods were less common than in tyrannosaur-dominated environments, they are nonetheless abundant in the Morrison Formation and more so than previously realized.
The research team said that a particularly intriguing aspect of their discovery was that none of the observed traces showed any evidence of healing – indicating that the bites occurred either in a single, lethal encounter or more likely were post-mortem feeding traces from scavenging.
The team also looked at the wear on the teeth of Morrison Formation theropods. They similarly showed wear associated with biting bones more often than previously realised and are closer to the patterns seen in the large tyrannosaurs.
However, the researchers say that attributing bite traces to specific theropods remains a “complex challenge” due to the presence of multiple credible candidates.
They said it is “very hard” to attribute any single bite on the sauropod bones to the predators around at the time such as Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus.
Study corresponding author Dr David Hone said: “This new work helps us understand the ecological relationships between dinosaurs in the Jurassic and reveals that the habits of the larger carnivores then were closer to that of the tyrannosaurs than previously thought.
“It’s another important step in reconstructing the behavior of these ancient animals.”
Dr. Hone, of Queen Mary University of London, added: “This research not only enhances our understanding of ancient ecosystems and the dynamics between predator and prey but also raises intriguing questions about the intricate web of life in the late Jurassic period.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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