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Fwd: Sneak Peak at Yale Torosaurus Sculpture

Sorry about the continued bird analogy.
As I was hinting at, one other effect the (given that they are small) cheeks present on the Macaw is to increase the ability to hold fluids in their mouth. Typically, the Macaw will scoop up a lower beak full of water, tilt it's head back (water runs around the tongue inside of the cheeks) and it swallows. Without the skin there, the water would run outward and it would be very difficult to get fluids (of any kind let alone a good beer) down their gullet. I envision a Ceratopsian dipping it's head in the water, tipping back and water running out of it's mouth without some tissue (be it simple soft tissue or otherwise) to retain it. Some flatter (wider aspect) headed lizards I have observed (that don't get their fluid from what they eat) literally dip and close their mouth the gulp to gain fluid. Loosing chewed food (as previously discussed) in a narrow oral passage could certainly be one problem of not having cheek structure, difficulty getting fluid to their gullet would be another somewhat more interesting issue. Ceratopsians have a lower beak to scoop, tip head back, water runs around the tongue and out the sides? Hummm. It would take a lot of water to support an animal the size of an SUV. Perhaps they got all they needed from the "lush" vegetation. Or maybe not...... Simple skin would suffice for fluids but I suspect something more substantial would be required to take the abuse that chomping vegetation/sticks would cause. We may not know specifically what Ceratopsians ate but I suspect that some occasional substantially sticky things were probably part of their diet either by accident or design.
Frank (Rooster) Bliss
MS Biostratigraphy
Weston, Wyoming

On Sep 27, 2005, at 9:10 PM, Jaime A. Headden wrote:

Dino Guy Ralph (ralph.miller@alumni.usc.edu) wrote:

<You want cheeks?  Check out the cheeky hornbill hatchlings at

With all due respect to birds, birds don't have the neccessary functional
tissue or size of such to make a cheek in the sense being used here, either a
tissue that holds food or is built from a muscle that surrounds the jaw. In
birds, this small tissue in the rear of the jaw anterior to the hinge is formed
from a set of muscles, some very tiny, that aid in closing the jaw, pulling the
mandible backward, or doing so while closing the mandible, including the mm.
pterygoideus and pseudomasseter. The sheer size in birds is so small as to have
very little effect on food, which birds typically swallow after any oral
processing (including parrots).

http://biology.clc.uc.edu/graphics/taxonomy/animals/aves/Parrot/ JSC%20980814%20Zoo%20Parrot%201.JPG

Here we have a macaw that, given the benefit of the shortened rostrum and
gigantic jaw adductors, has strongly anteriorized adductor musculature that
results in a "cheek" as Ralph would have it, but all oral processing is
anterior to this set of muscles, and thus the appearance of the cheek is not
functional to mammals or what some of us would like to see in dinosaurs.

My problem so far with Witmer's hypothesis is that, while ceratopsians have
stronglyvascularized cortical surfaces of their skulls, this doesn't explain
the inset jaw margin as being dangerous to process food interorally when the
mandible is so long and narrow? By comparison, birds and crocodilians with such
narrow and long rostra process their food largely by grip, lift, and gulp:

  1. grip the food firmly in the jaws;
  2. lift the head and point the snout upwards;
  3. let the food drop to the back of the throat and gulp it down.

We can determine by jaw mechanics and toothwear that ceratopsians apparently
operated their jaws primarily straight up and down, with various degrees of
side-to-side movement, which means the process of eating foot, without cheeks,
in such a narrow jaw, would result is loss of food during cropping. In
ceratopsians and especially ankylosaurs, the toothrows are strongly inset, a
condition that doesn't compare to anything else in nature save mammals and some
lizards (which, as in *Moloch*, lack cheeks: See digimorph.org for CT scans of
*Moloch* skulls, inset jaws, laterally placed jugals, and broadened mandibular
ventral margins that support ornamental scalation).

I am partial to Witmer finding absolute correllates to test these hypotheses,
and I am glad he's finding answers. But I do not think dismissing "cheeks"
because one is looking for mammal-style tissues is the answer. What other forms
of tissue can form a cheek-like structure and not require mammal-style
correllates? What if simple skin covered this region and formed pockets lateral
to the jaw margins? what traces would this leave? I don't think we have the
answers available yet to say that *Torosaurus* had wide-open jaws as shown. It
would help to know what ceratopsians ate....


Jaime A. Headden

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)

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