Paleontologists from the University of Alberta have studied fossilized dinosaurs’ teeth to find out what they ate and how. Their research compared the teeth of three species of carnivorous dinosaurs. They looked at the serrations and the scratches on the teeth left from chewing. These signs on the teeth are called microwear patterns.
Angelica Torices, from Universidad de La Rioja, Spain, explains the importance of the study:
“All these dinosaurs were living at the same time and place, so it is important to know if they were competing for food resources or if they were aiming for different prey. Through this work we begin to understand the interactions between these predatory dinosaurs in the ecosystem a bit better.”
How and What Did Dinosaurs Eat?
Torices and her colleagues have analyzed the microwear and tried to make a connection between the patterns and how different dinosaurs ate. She and her colleague Ryan Wilkinson from the University of Alberta, Canada, used a finite elements analysis to determine how the teeth behaved at different angles:
“We found the microwear patterns were similar in all of the teeth we examined, regardless of the size of the dinosaur, the size of the tooth or the shape of the denticles,” said Ryan Wilkinson, who is also the co-author on the study, and an undergraduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences.
But they also saw that according to the shape and the strength of the dinosaurs’ teeth, they were forced to pick their prey. So, they discovered that dromeosaurids could easily handle struggling prey or smashing done, while the troodontid preferred softer prey. They also observed the way dinosaurs bit into their prey and chewed it.
Wilkinson explains that “the microwear patterns indicated there were two motions that occur during a bite. There was initial plunging cut vertically into the food item, followed by an oblique cut at a 30- to 40-degree angle as the theropod pulls its head backwards as it continues to bite down.”
There is more information on the study in Current Biology, published under the name “Puncture-and-Pull Biomechanics in the Teeth of Predatory Coelurosaurian Dinosaurs.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.