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Re:sauropod feeding*

> What kind of ground cover was around in the Mesozoic?  Most dinosaur 
> drawings I've seen show a lot of bare earth.  Seems unlikely to me.

I have seen many places in western states where sage brush completely 
covers the surface, with a maze of intergrown roots that would 
effectively retard soil erosion.  I think at least some of this was 
ungrazed land, so that would be the natural state.  I don't know if sage 
existed in the Late Cretaceous.

I have also seen sparse conifer forests in northern California with very 
little grass--mainly just pine needles, scattered sage and manzanita, and 
ground-hugging herbaceous plants.  

The hardwood forest floors around southern Indiana are covered with years 
worth of broad leaves (oak, maple, etc.), with scattered vines (poison 
ivy, blackberries) and herbaceous plants (wildflowers) poking 
through--but no real ground cover.  Perhaps much of the Late Cretaceous 
terrain was like this.

I've seen places in Florida that are so thick with cycads that nothing 
else can grow, so that's the ground cover there.  How about cycadeoids 
during the Triassic and Jurassic?

Also, lichens (I think they're lichens--puffy little mats of fuzzy 
greenish-gray vegetation) cover much of the soil in more arid settings 
today, such as Utah and Colorado, and may have done so in the drier 
portions of the Morrison terrain.  These are effective in preventing 
erosion.  In addition to lichens, ferns and mosses would have helped 
cover the ground in wetter locations.  I'm speculating.

Norman R. King                                       tel:  (812) 464-1794
Department of Geosciences                            fax:  (812) 464-1960
University of Southern Indiana
8600 University Blvd.
Evansville, IN 47712                      e-mail:  nking.ucs@smtp.usi.edu