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Cockroaches fed on dinosaur dung



From: Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com

New in PLoS ONE:

Peter Vrsansky, Thomas van de Kamp, Dany Azar, Alexander Prokin,
L'ubomír Vidlicka & Patrik Vagovic (2013)
Cockroaches Probably Cleaned Up after Dinosaurs.
PLoS ONE 8(12): e80560.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080560
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0080560


Dinosaurs undoubtedly produced huge quantities of excrements. But who
cleaned up after them? Dung beetles and flies with rapid development
were rare during most of the Mesozoic. Candidates for these duties are
extinct cockroaches (Blattulidae), whose temporal range is associated
with herbivorous dinosaurs. An opportunity to test this hypothesis
arises from coprolites to some extent extruded from an immature
cockroach preserved in the amber of Lebanon, studied using synchrotron
X-ray microtomography. 1.06% of their volume is filled by particles of
wood with smooth edges, in which size distribution directly supports
their external pre-digestion. Because fungal pre-processing can be
excluded based on the presence of large particles (combined with small
total amount of wood) and absence of damages on wood, the likely
source of wood are herbivore feces. Smaller particles were broken down
biochemically in the cockroach hind gut, which indicates that the
recent lignin-decomposing termite and cockroach endosymbionts might
have been transferred to the cockroach gut upon feeding on dinosaur
feces.