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Sauropod diet and gigantism, omnivorous juveniles (free pdf)

From: Ben Creisler

A new online paper--the pdf is free.

David M. Wilkinson & Graeme D. Ruxton (2012)
High C/N ratio (not low-energy content) of vegetation may have driven
gigantism in sauropod dinosaurs and perhaps omnivory and/or endothermy
in their juveniles.
Functional Ecology (advance online publication)
DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12033

Free pdf:


1.Sauropod dinosaurs were the largest terrestrial animals ever, and
the combination of selective pressures that might have lead to such
extraordinary sizes has long been discussed.

2.Here, we argue that a previous suggestion that large size may be a
response to unusually high C/N ratios in available plant foods has
been prematurely discarded. C/N ratios were likely to be high during
much of the Mesozoic, and C/N ratio is entirely different from gross
energy density as a measure of the value of a plant as food. In
addition, we use recently published allometric equations for herbivore
nitrogen and carbon use to make tentative calculations which suggest
that if Mesozoic C/N ratios were greater than extant ones, this would
have selected for one of two strategies: gigantism in ectothermic
herbivores or endothermy (and selective foraging on high N material)
in very small herbivores.

3.We speculate that smaller-bodied juvenile sauropods might have had a
broader omnivorous diet and/or had higher mass-specific metabolic
rates than adults. The former is potentially testable by changes in
dentition; the latter matches evidence of high growth rates of
juvenile sauropods.