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RE: gastrolith research

Dear Oliver,

You should definitely speak with David Gillette, who is now in Arizona
(email David.Gillette@nau.edu), who worked with what may be the most
compelling evidence for gastroliths yet on Seismosaurus. I say compelling
because in spite of many claims about gastroliths, there are apparently not
that many found in proximimity to articulated bones, which is important to
suggest their location and purpose in the dinosaur. What many of us found
surprising about David's gastroliths is that they were relatively small in
comparison to the dinosaur (which is probably the longest known at up to

For what it's worth, I have wondered if gastroliths are not so much related
to grinding up vegetation in the stomach as they are to merely passing the
food through the digestive tract. Call it fiber, a stone-age version of
Grade Nuts. One reason I say this is that I have noticed that iguanas do
this; they eat gravel when it is available and it passes with their food. I
think it may help them keep regular. And they are vegetarian.

--Thom Holmes
dinosaur author at large

-----Original Message-----
From: Oliver Wings [mailto:olliwings@hotmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 18, 1999 2:02 PM
To: vrtpaleo@usc.edu
Cc: dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: gastrolith research

greetings colleagues,

i'm currently starting a ph.d. project (with dr martin sander in bonn) about
gastroliths of sauropods from tendaguru in tanzania and the morrison
formation in the usa.
of course i have to get a general view about gizzard stones and have to
examine these stones at marine reptiles as well. i will compare terrestrial
and marine tetrapods to get a better understanding of the whole topic. even
if the diet and probably the function were so different...

some questions for my project are:

- are all these stones really gastroliths?
- which methods of investigation are possible to proof the authenticity of
gastroliths (laser, electron microscope etc.)?
- which purpose did they had?
- in which part of the digestion system where these stones be found?
- are there the same characteristics of the used rock-types / size etc. at
different reptile species and even in one species?
- why do not all individuals of one species have gastroliths?
- which predication is possible for the nutriment and for the process of
- is it possible to decide the origin of these rocks and, if so, is it maybe
possible to prove any migrational movements of these animals?

well, there are still a lot of questions to answer...

... and to do so, i have a few questions for the scientific community:

who is doing some research on gastroliths at the moment or has done it in
the past?
who is interested in cooperation?
which museums have (preferably well documented) material and would me let
work with it?
who knows about any unique or unusual or just interesting specimen with
stomach stones?
what about strange stomach contents (e.g. fossilized wood)?

i know that research on gastroliths will be difficult and that some results
of my research may be scanty. nevertheless i believe this topic may help to
reveal some interesting new facts.

oliver wings


Oliver Wings
Institut fuer Palaeontologie
D-91054 Erlangen
phone:   +49-9141-2933
Fax:     +49-9131-8522690
Email:   olliwings@hotmail.com

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