Giant Jurassic Dinosaur Eating Habits Discovered

By Chelsea Whyte on July 31, 2012 2:19 AM EDT

diplodocus
Diplodocus was a giant dinosaur that lived during the Jurassic period, and new research showed it ate leafs stripped off branches. (Photo: Creative Commons: Nobu Tamura)

Dinosaurs in 3-D are usually left to the movie theaters, but scientists have now used a 3-D model of a Diplodocus skull to determine just what the giant dino ate for dinner.

A team of researchers from the University of Bristol, Natural History Museum of London, the University of Missouri and Ohio University have figured out what Diplodocus feasted on, after uncertainty since its discovery 130 years ago.

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Diplodocus was a giant, herbivorous sauropod dinosaur from the Jurassic period, which was around 150 million years ago. The dinosaur, which was more than 170 feet long and weighed more than 12 tons, was the longest animal ever to walk the planet. Its neck was about 20 feet in length.

"Since Diplodocus was such a huge animal, its eating habits and behavior have always been a question in the paleontology community," said Casey Holliday, an assistant professor of pathology and anatomical sciences at MU. "With the 3D model of the skull, we were able to simulate three eating scenarios using a computer-based analysis to determine the stresses that the skull would experience in each situation."

The 3-D model of its skull, based on a CT scan, showed that the dinosaur wouldn't have stripped bark off trees, as was long thought. This method of eating would have put bone-damaging stress on the dinosaur's teeth and skull. Instead, they found that the sauropod most likely stripped leaves from branches.

"The model and the scans showed that branch stripping, which is when the dinosaur would place its mouth on a branch and pull all the leaves off the branch, placed little to or no stress on the teeth and skull," Holliday said, according to Live Science.

And so, modern technology solves a long-standing mystery about this colossal creatures.

"Sauropod dinosaurs, like Diplodocus, were so weird and different from living animals that there is no animal we can compare them with," researcher Mark Young said, according to UPI.

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