Plant-eating dinosaurs evolved to eat differently

Plant-eating dinosaurs may have evolved different ways of eating their food, the researchers say.

When analyzing the skulls of the first known herbivorous dinosaurs, scientists discovered differences in their eating styles despite similar diets.

Lead author, Dr David Button, of the University of Bristol, said this was due to “having different jaw muscles and biting movements”.

The researchers said this shows “how innovative” evolution can be.

Dr David Button, who led the study at the Natural History Museum in London, said that when they compared the functional performance of the skull and teeth, “they found significant differences between the relative sizes of the jaw muscles, bite force and jaw strength.” to them”.

“This showed that these dinosaurs evolved very different ways to deal with a plant diet, although they looked somewhat similar.”

‘Reconstructing the jaw muscles’

Published in the journal Current Biology, the researchers said their findings could shed more light on how dinosaurs evolved to occupy certain ecological niches, while also highlighting how unpredictable evolution can be.

For the study, the researchers reconstructed the jaw muscles of Heterodontosaurus, Lesothosaurus, Scelidosaurus, Hypsilophodon, and Psittacosaurus.

They then simulated the act of biting to analyze the forces exerted by the reconstructed muscles.

The five dinosaur species belong to a group of herbivorous creatures known as Ornithischia and were, according to experts, the earliest representatives of large plant-eating dinosaur groups.

The team found that Heterodontosaurus had large jaw muscles for its skull size and therefore produced a high biting force ideal for consuming tough vegetation.

Scelidosaurus, on the other hand, had relatively small jaw muscles compared to its skull, but had a similar biting power due to its overall body size.

Senior author Professor Paul Barrett, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum, said it was “critical” to learn “how dinosaurs evolved to feed on such a wide variety” in order to effectively understand “how dinosaurs evolved into so many different species.” vegetation in many different forms”.

While all dinosaurs are thought to have descended from a single carnivorous ancestor, most evolved to be plant-eaters.

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