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Diplodocoid feeding article in PLoS One

From: Ben Creisler

A new dinosaur article in PLoS ONE:

Whitlock, J.A. (2011)
Inferences of Diplodocoid (Sauropoda: Dinosauria) Feeding Behavior from
Snout Shape and Microwear Analyses. 
PLoS ONE 6(4): e18304. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018304

As gigantic herbivores, sauropod dinosaurs were among the most important
members of Mesozoic communities. Understanding their ecology is fundamental
to developing a complete picture of Jurassic and Cretaceous food webs. One
group of sauropods in particular, Diplodocoidea, has long been a source of
debate with regard to what and how they ate. Because of their long lineage
duration (Late Jurassic-Late Cretaceous) and cosmopolitan distribution,
diplodocoids formed important parts of multiple ecosystems. Additionally,
fortuitous preservation of a large proportion of cranial elements makes
them an ideal clade in which to examine feeding behavior.

Methodology/Principal Findings
Hypotheses of various browsing behaviors (selective and nonselective
browsing at ground-height, mid-height, or in the upper canopy) were
examined using snout shape (square vs. round) and dental microwear. The
square snouts, large proportion of pits, and fine subparallel scratches in
Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Nigersaurus, and Rebbachisaurus suggest
ground-height nonselective browsing; the narrow snouts of Dicraeosaurus,
Suuwassea, and Tornieria and the coarse scratches and gouges on the teeth
of Dicraeosaurus suggest mid-height selective browsing in those taxa.
Comparison with outgroups (Camarasaurus and Brachiosaurus) reinforces the
inferences of ground- and mid-height browsing and the existence of both
non-selective and selective browsing behaviors in diplodocoids.

These results reaffirm previous work suggesting the presence of diverse
feeding strategies in sauropods and provide solid evidence for two
different feeding behaviors in Diplodocoidea. These feeding behaviors can
subsequently be tied to paleoecology, such that non-selective,
ground-height behaviors are restricted to open, savanna-type environments.
Selective browsing behaviors are known from multiple sauropod clades and
were practiced in multiple environments.

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