Dinosaur fossil reveals details about its last meal

Hyperaxion Jun 4, 2020

Remains found in the stomach of the nodosaur show the animal’s preference for fern and give clues to how it interacted with the environment.

Researchers have discovered the last meal of a well-preserved nodosaur over 110 million years old of the species Borealopelta markmitchelli. The animal, which had a kind of armor-like shell, weighed about 1.3 tonnes when alive.

The dinosaur fossil was found in Canada in 2011, and scientists have since been working to discover new information about it – including its diet. “The finding of the actual preserved stomach contents from a dinosaur is extraordinarily rare, and this stomach is by far the best-preserved dinosaur stomach ever found to date,” said geologist Jim Basinger, a member of the study team, in a statement.  According to him, the stomach contents are a distinct mass, about the size of a soccer ball.

Dinosaur fossil reveals details about its last meal
(Credit: Julius Csotonyi / Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology).

The article, published in the scientific journal Royal Society Open Science, details the diet of the herbivorous dinosaur and describes what has been discovered about the animal’s interaction with its environment. “The last meal of our dinosaur was mostly fern leaves—88 per cent chewed leaf material and seven per cent stems and twigs,” said David Greenwood, professor and researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada.

The scientists analyzed the flora of the region in which it lived and found that the animal’s taste was demanding, choosing to eat specific ferns (leptosporangiate, the largest group of ferns that exist today) over other types of Cycadaceae and conifers, common to the landscape of the early Cretaceous. The team identified 48 types of sediment, including moss or liverwort, 26 clubmosses and ferns, 13 gymnosperm plants (mainly conifers), and two angiosperms (flowering plants).

“Also, there is considerable charcoal in the stomach from burnt plant fragments, indicating that the animal was browsing in a recently burned area and was taking advantage of a recent fire and the flush of ferns that frequently emerges on a burned landscape,” said Greenwood.

This adaptation to take advantage of fires is new information. Scientists believe that, like large herbivores, nodosaurs may have shaped the landscape’s vegetation, possibly maintaining more open areas. Researchers will continue their analysis to understand more about its environment and behavior.

Related topics:

Cretaceous dinosaur

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