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Let them eat ... pine cones ...
> pinecones (rich in protein, and mighty flavorful in a salad) [...]
I suspect that's pine *nuts* that Betty meant -- the whole cones
would be pretty tough chewing, for most of them that I've seen. But
it is an interesting question. There are lots of small present-day
critters that eat seeds out of conifer cones -- various rodents and
birds, to name a few.
Are there any large critters extant today that make a living by
eating or at least masticating entire conifer cones for the sake of
the nuts therein, and what do their teeth look like? Answers might
provide some hints of how to approach the problem of whether some
dinosaurs could and did do the same.
I think I recall reading somewhere that some of the more recently
extinct South American fauna ("recent" meaning at most a few million
years) are believed to have eaten entire fruiting bodies of South
American trees, fruiting bodies that were at least as formidable as
pine cones. If so, there is thereby an existence proof for a
large-animal foraging strategy of this nature.
Hmn, if a very large critter swallowed fruiting bodies whole,
the fact of its doing so might not be reflected in its dentition.
-- Jay Freeman