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Imagine a crew of hungry toddlers and kindergartners with unrestricted access to the kitchen. Would they gorge themselves on candy, chips and ice cream?
For a type of fast-growing youngster that lived 150 million years ago, the answer instead was a diverse, nutritious diet, rich in tender greens.
Discovery - Thursday - Juvenile - Dinosaur - Skull
That finding resulted from the discovery, announced Thursday, of a rare juvenile dinosaur skull belonging to one of those familiar, long-necked plant-eaters called sauropods. Unlike adults of this particular species, called Diplodocus, the young dinosaur had two different kinds of teeth—pencil-like teeth in the front, and flatter, spatulalike chompers in the back.
The dino's dental diversity and narrow snout allowed it both to pick out the choicest shoots and chew them to extract as many nutrients as possible, said lead study author D. Cary Woodruff, a Ph.D. student at the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto.
Nutrition - Growth - Animals - Egg - Feet
Proper nutrition would have been essential to fuel fast growth for the animals, which hatched from a cantaloupe-size egg and reached a staggering 60 feet in length by the time they were teenagers, he said.
"We're thinking of it like a mouth with a Swiss Army knife," Woodruff said.
Adults - Hand - Front - Teeth - Wider
Adults, on the other hand, had only the pencil-like front teeth, set in a wider, vacuum-shaped snout, suggesting they raked up vegetation indiscriminately and swallowed it without chewing, said Woodruff, who collaborated with researchers from Princeton University and the Cincinnati Museum Center, among other institutions. And given their different diets, adult and juvenile sauropods likely were eating apart from one another, Woodruff and his coauthors wrote in the journal Scientific Reports.
Peter Dodson, a prominent University of Pennsylvania dinosaur expert who was...
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