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COW-A-SAURUS FOUND, according to reports in New Scientist News 15 Nov 2007 and PLoS One 21 Nov 2007. In 1997 a team led by Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago found a strange looking dinosaur in the Sahara, which they named "Nigersaurus taqueti". The creature's bones were rather fragile but Sereno and colleagues from various American Universities have studied the fossil in detail using CT scans as well as making casts. The animal had had extraordinary square jaws with 60 columns of teeth lined up across the front of each jaw. New Scientist described it as "a cross between a lawn mower and a huge muppet". Each tooth had up to nine replacements lined up behind it and the researchers suggest that the teeth were rapidly replaced, maybe at the rate of one each month. The skull and vertebral column were very lightweight, suggesting the animal had a hard time lifting its head above the level of its back. The orientation of the inner ear and the joints between skull and spine indicate the animal habitually adopted a head down posture, with its toothy jaws facing the ground. The researchers interpret their findings as: “Skeletal and dental evidence suggests that Nigersaurus was a ground-level herbivore that gathered and sliced relatively soft vegetation, the culmination of a low-browsing feeding strategy first established among diplodocoids during the Jurassic." This means they think it grazed like a cow, although they do not believe it ate grass, because the fossil is dated as early Cretaceous (about 110 million years old) and grasses are not thought to have evolved until the late Cretaceous period, millions of years later. They suggest it ate ferns and horsetails and "other non-angiosperms". (non-flowering plants).
PLoS One:
New Scientist:

ED. COM. Until two years ago evolutionary biologists believed that grasses did not evolve until after the Cretaceous and well after dinosaurs had died out, but a palaeobotanist found evidence of grass in fossilised Cretaceous dinosaur dung. The creature described above certainly seems well designed for grazing like a cow, so it would make sense if it ate plants which we predict will one day be found to include grass. Grasses are seed bearing plants and Genesis tells us that these and all other plants were made on the third day of creation, before any animals including Dinosaurs were made. See report, "Grass eating dinosaur challenges plant evolution" can be found in our Science Reports archive. (Use Search at top of page.) (Ref. biomechanics, diet, vegetation)

e-news 12 Dec 2007

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