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Cretaceous crocodyliforms fed on juvenile ornithischian dinosaurs



From: Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com


A new paper in PLoS ONE:




Clint A. Boyd, Stephanie K. Drumheller & Terry A. Gates (2013)
Crocodyliform Feeding Traces on Juvenile Ornithischian Dinosaurs from
the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) Kaiparowits Formation, Utah.
PLoS ONE 8(2): e57605.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057605
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0057605


Crocodyliforms serve as important taphonomic agents, accumulating and
modifying vertebrate remains. Previous discussions of Mesozoic
crocodyliform feeding in terrestrial and riverine ecosystems have
often focused on larger taxa and their interactions with equally large
dinosaurian prey. However, recent evidence suggests that the impact of
smaller crocodyliforms on their environments should not be discounted.
Here we present direct evidence of feeding by a small crocodyliform on
juvenile specimens of a ‘hypsilophodontid’ dinosaur from the Upper
Cretaceous (Campanian) Kaiparowits Formation of southern Utah.
Diagnostic crocodyliform bite marks present on a left scapula and a
right femur, as well as a partial probable crocodyliform tooth crown
(ovoid in cross-section) preserved within a puncture on the right
femur, comprise the bulk of the feeding evidence. Computed tomography
scans of the femoral puncture reveal impact damage to the surrounding
bone and that the distal tip of the embedded tooth was missing prior
to the biting event. This is only the second reported incidence of a
fossil crocodyliform tooth being found embedded directly into prey
bone. These bite marks provide insight into the trophic interactions
of the ecosystem preserved in the Kaiparowits Formation. The high
diversity of crocodyliforms within this formation may have led to
accentuated niche partitioning, which seems to have included juvenile
dinosaurian prey.