Most successful plant-eating dinosaur survived on pine needles, scientists show
Published 14/07/2016 | 10:16
Hadrosaurs, the most successful plant eaters of the dinosaur era, stubbornly survived on a diet of pine needles, research has shown.
The duck-billed dinosaurs appear to have left rapidly evolving flowering plants alone and stuck to crunching conifers.
Dr Albert Prieto-Marquez, from the University of Bristol, said: "Some of the immensely successful duck-billed hadrosaurs of the Late Cretaceous might have been eating flowering plants, but their tooth wear patterns, and especially close study of their coprolites - that's fossil poops - shows they were conifer specialists, designed to crush and digest the oily, tough needles and cones."
Plant-eating dinosaurs went through four bursts of evolution, one in the mid-Jurassic era and the other three around 80 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous, said the team writing in the journal Scientific Reports.
Angiosperms, or flowering plants, made their first appearance in the Cretaceous. Until then, the Earth's plant life chiefly consisted of mosses, ferns, cycads and conifers.
Although grasses are thought to date back to the dinosaur era, large expanses of grassland such as Africa's savannah did not provide grazing for plant-eating animals until much later.
An examination of hadrosaur jaws and teeth showed that the animals had not responded to changing plant evolution.