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Sauropod browsing energetics

From: Ben Creisler

A new paper about sauropods:

Ruxton, Graeme D. and Wilkinson, David M.  (2011)
The energetics of low browsing in sauropods.
Biology Letters (advance online publication)
doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0116 

It has recently been argued that the probable high cost of travel for
sauropod dinosaurs would have made exploiting high forage energetically
attractive, if this reduced the need to travel between food patches. This
argument was supported by simple calculations. Here, we take a similar
approach to evaluate the energetics of foraging close to the ground. We
predict that small extensions of the neck beyond the minimum required for
the mouth to reach the ground bring substantial energetic savings. Each
increment of length brings a further saving, but the sizes of such benefits
decrease with increasing neck length. However, the observed neck length of
around 9 m for Brachiosaurus (for example) is predicted to reduce the
overall cost of foraging by 80 per cent, compared with a minimally necked
individual. We argue that the long neck of the sauropods may have been
under positive selection for low foraging (instead of, or as well as,
exploitation of high foraging), if this long neck allowed a greater area of
food to be exploited from a given position and thus reduced the
energetically expensive movement of the whole animal. 

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