Some dinosaurs ate grass

This 2016 video from the USA says about itself:

Measuring 122 feet, the Museum’s new exhibit, The Titanosaur, is big–so big that its head extends outside of the Museum’s fourth-floor gallery where it is now on permanent display.

This species of dinosaur, a giant herbivore that belongs to a group known as titanosaurs, is so new that it has not yet been formally named by the paleontologists who discovered it. The Titanosaur lived in the forests of today’s Patagonia about 100 to 95 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period, and weighed 70 tons.

It is one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered. The fossils on which this cast is based were excavated in the Patagonian desert region of Argentina by a team from the Museo Paleontologico Egidio Feruglio led by José Luis Carballido and Diego Pol, who received his Ph.D. at the American Museum of Natural History.

In this video, Dr. Mark Norell, chair and Macaulay Curator in the Division of Paleontology, describes how such a massive animal could have supported its own weight and why the Titanosaur is one of the more spectacular finds during what he describes as “the golden age of paleontology”.

From the BBC:

Thursday, 17 November 2005

Dinosaurs got munchies for grass

A study of fossil dinosaur dung has for the first time confirmed that the ancient reptiles ate grass.

Grass was previously thought to have become common only after the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago.

But grasses were probably not a very important part of dinosaur diets – the fossilised faeces show the big beasts ate many different types of plants.

However, the Science journal study suggests grass was possibly an important food for early mammals.

Caroline Strömberg from the Swedish Museum of Natural History and her colleagues studied phytoliths (mineral particles produced by grass and other plants) preserved in fossil dinosaur dung from central India.

Theory dumped

The 65-67 million-year-old dung fossils, or coprolites, are thought to have been made by so-called titanosaur sauropods; large, vegetarian dinosaurs.

See also here.

Giant titanosaur in Argentina: here.

Titanosaurs in Australia: here.

Titanosaurs were extremely widespread during the Cretaceous period, to the extent that just about every country on earth can lay claim to its own genus. Thailand’s entry in the titanosaur sweepstakes is Phuwiangosaurus, which in certain respects (long neck, light armor plating) was a typical member of the breed, but in others (narrow teeth, strangely shaped vertebrae) stood apart from the pack: here.

Around 30 to 40 million years ago, grasses on Earth underwent an epic evolutionary upheaval. An assemblage capitalized on falling levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide by engineering an internal mechanism to concentrate the dwindling CO2 supply that, like a fuel-injection system in a car, could more efficiently convert sunlight and nutrients into energy: here.


15 thoughts on “Some dinosaurs ate grass

  1. Scientific mud flies over dinosaur footprints
    Randy Boswell, CanWest News Service
    Published: Thursday, April 12, 2007

    A University of Alberta scientist’s once-in-a-lifetime dinosaur discovery in Croatia has turned into a nightmare after a rival team of European researchers raced to the site of the find and published their own study — without crediting the Canadian and his colleagues.

    The dispute has exploded in the pages of the Nature, one of the world’s leading science publications, with U of A paleontologist Michael Caldwell decrying the “intellectual theft” of his team’s discovery of 10 fossilized footprints from a 95-million-year-old titanosaur.

    The trackway was found during a 2004 research project — funded partly by the Canadian government agency NSERC and National Geographic — on the Croatian island of Hvar. Caldwell was leading a search by scientists from the Edmonton university and Croatia’s main natural history museum for traces of prehistoric marine lizards when they “stumbled” upon the trail of 30-centimetre-long dinosaur footprints along a rocky shoreline that was once limestone mud.

    The long-necked, plant-eating titanosaurs were among the largest of the dinosaurs, up to 20 metres in length and weighing 10 tonnes. The discovery on Hvar — which has helped prove the island was linked to North Africa before drifting to its present position off the Balkan coast — was particularly significant because it was the first dinosaur discovery in the region and it added millions of years to the time frame of the species’ existence.

    Caldwell and his team announced the discovery at a press conference in the Croatian capital of Zagreb in 2004. Team members had been compiling research results for a planned journal article when they learned in January they’d been “scooped” by a competing group of scientists.

    Led by University of Zagreb paleontologist Aleksander Mezga, a team of four Croatian scientists and one Swiss researcher published an eight-page article about the Hvar titanosaur tracks in the December edition of the British-based scientific journal Cretaceous Research.

    The article trumpets the discovery with a string of superlatives, proclaiming it the first dinosaur footprint find along the Croatian coast, as well as the “geologically youngest” and largest specimens ever found in the area.

    There was no mention of the Canadian-Croatian team’s discovery of the site. And while Mezga told Nature that “every single word” of the journal article “is our intellectual property,” he admitted making no attempt to contact Caldwell and his team prior to publication.

    “If they had mentioned us by name, it would have been clear they were publishing our discovery,” Caldwell told CanWest News Service on Thursday. “They avoided doing so for obvious reasons.”

    Caldwell said he expects “sanctions will be forthcoming” and that the parent company of the journal, Elsevier, is considering his team’s demand for a formal retraction of the article.

    Asked if reporting of a discovery is subject to time limits, Caldwell replied by e-mail: “Absolutely not — no time limits in paleontology. In fact, Mezga and his team submitted their manuscript before we had gotten the permits from the Croatian Ministry of Science to remove the specimens and rock samples from the country.

    “We failed to do nothing — except to realize we were being scooped.”


  2. Dinosaur egg returned to Argentina

    August 6, 2007 – 4:04PM

    A 72-million-year-old dinosaur egg has been handed back to Argentina after being seized in Australia during a blitz on fossil smuggling.

    The eight kg egg, from the plant eating Titanosaurus, was seized in Melbourne in January 2005 en route to the United States.

    A further 112kg of fossils were found two months later from the same dealer.

    The Australian government returned the egg, along with the dinosaur and plant fossils, to Argentina’s ambassador in Canberra.

    Assistant Minister for the Environment John Cobb said Argentina asked Australia in October 2004 to help with the seizure of illegally exported fossils.

    Mr Cobb said the seizures had sent a strong message to the world that Australia will not tolerate the illegal export of cultural heritage.

    Mr Cobb said the fossils were very valuable.

    “Argentine fossils are incredibly important worldwide and are the key to understanding the evolutionary phases of the whole of life,” he said.

    The plant fossils returned included pine cones and seeds from the ancient Araucaria conifer trees, which were from the middle Jurassic age, between 175 and 154 million years old.

    The importer of the fossils was not prosecuted, a government spokesman said.

    The seller lodged an application in the Federal Court to recover the fossils, but the action was dismissed.

    Argentina’s Ambassador, Pedro Villagra Delgado, said he was grateful to Australia for stepping in to stop the illegal fossil trade.

    “This cooperation is especially important for developing countries which many times lack the resources to effectively monitor the whereabouts of the various elements that compose a cultural and archaeological heritage,” he said.

    © 2007 AAP


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