Some of the largest dinosaur species known to have roamed Earth were also herbivores, in most cases, vegetarians. However, a new study found that at least some of these herbivore dinosaurs did not seem to have a problem with consuming crustaceans or shelled animals, as well.
Crustaceans, a Food Source Even for Herbivore Dinosaurs
This latest discovery comes from a team of researchers from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science studying the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. According to them, the ancestors of modern-day crustaceans such as lobsters, shrimps, and crabs, were rich sources of calcium and proteins.
The study team reported finding crustacean shells in more than ten corpolite samples, which are basically fossilized bodily waste. The samples were collected from three distinct stratigraphic layers, ones spread over 13 miles of the national monument.
Because of this, the researchers tend to believe that the shelled animals were not mistakenly swallowed, but more like consumed by herbivore dinosaurs.
An analysis of the corpolite samples indicates that these most likely come from a sort of duck-billed dinosaurs known as hadrosaurs. Although the samples consist mainly of “jumbled fragments of rotting wood”, they also revealed “thick bits and pieces of fossilized shells”.
As the team points out, this also seems to indicate that ancestors of crustaceans were living in coniferous, decaying wood.
“From what we know about dinosaurs, this was a totally unexpected behavior. It was such a surprising discovery we wondered what the motivation could have been,” explains Karen Chin.
She is the Museum of Natural History at the University of Colorado, Boulder’s curator of paleontology. Chin and her colleagues theorize that the consumption of shelled animals might possibly have been linked to the reproductive activities of these herbivore dinosaurs.
The modern-day descendants of dinosaurs, birds, were noted to increase their calcium and protein intake during the breeding season to increase their reproduction rates. This seems to strengthen the scientists’ theory. The team also pointed out that it would be hard to clearly prove intent when discussing feeding habits, in this case.
A paper with the current study findings is available in the journal Scientific Reports.
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