Diplodocus – a genus of the diplodocid sauropod dinosaurs might have been one of the biggest vegetarians in history. However, recent research carried out by the University of Bristol has said that ancestors of the Diplodocus might have feasted on meat.
Dr Antonio Ballell, the lead of the research said that while omnivores, herbivores and carnivores all existed by the Triassic period, their predecessors did not necessarily share the same diet, according to a report by the Guardian.
Dr Ballell said the earliest members of the two main veggie dinosaurs were not exclusively herbivorous, the report added.
The research ”Dental form and function in the early feeding diversification of dinosaurs” published in the journal Science Advances on Friday, studied the teeth of some of the earliest dinosaurs to determine what they ate.
“Dinosaurs evolved a remarkable diversity of dietary adaptations throughout the Mesozoic, but the origins of different feeding modes are uncertain, especially the multiple origins of herbivory,” the research said.
It said early dinosaurs’ feeding habits were mostly inferred from qualitative comparisons of dental morphology with extant analogues.
Dr Ballell and his colleagues analysed the teeth of 11 early dinosaurs including Ngwevu intloko and Lesothosaurus diagnosticus. Ngwevu intloko was a long-necked ancestor of the sauropods while Lesothosaurus diagnosticus was a bird-hipped dinosaur. Both these dinosaurs lived about 200 million years ago, the Guardian report said.
The research team at the University of Bristol looked at the shaping and functioning of the dinosaurs’ teeth and made computer models of how stress would be distributed among the teeth when biting. The results were then fed into machine-learning algorithms based on the dental features and diets of 47 living reptiles, the report added.
The results showed that Ngwevu intloko and other early relatives of sauropods were likely to have been herbivores, those that lived earlier- appeared to have been carnivores based on their teeth, the report also said. On the other hand, when it comes to Lesothosaurus diagnosticus, the researchers pointed out that the dinosaur’s teeth had a greater mechanical resistance suggesting that while it could have been a herbivore, there was also a possibility that it could have been an omnivore.
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