Superfood for Mesozoic herbivores? Emerging data on extreme digestibility of equisetum and implications for young, growing herbivorous sauropods

November 08, 2019

The long-necked, big bodied sauropod dinosaurs comprise some of the largest terrestrial vertebrates to walk the earth. These behemoths were herbivores that survived solely on plant material. There has been long speculation as to what food resources could have supported their size, particularly when young and growing fast. New research being presented at this year's annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology held this year in Brisbane, Australia by lead author, Carole Gee, University of Bonn, Germany, points to a plant commonly known as the horsetail.

Equisetum is a spore-bearing plant commonly known as the "scouring rush" or "horsetail," and close relatives of the modern genus are known in the fossil record as far back as the Triassic. Gee and co-authors studied the digestive fermentation and comparative calorie yield of seven extant species of Equisetum for living herbivores using a standardized feed evaluation test. Their data confirm earlier studies that suggest Equisetum was an important, highly digestible, nutritious, and therefore preferred food source for herbivorous dinosaurs in Mesozoic times. "My approach to understanding the paleobiology of ancient plants and deep-time plant-animal interactions is not only to look at paleontology, but also to include studies of living plants and their ecology, as well as the dietary habits of living animals," says Gee.

In this study, Gee and her colleagues turn their attention to the diets of hatchling and young sauropods, as well as other small-stature herbivorous dinosaurs. "Up to now, plants used as likely food resources have only been studied for fully-grown sauropods," Dee stated. Young and growing sauropods grow very quickly, recognizing the value of Equisetum as a major food source for young and growing sauropods is extremely important in learning more about their growth. Gee and her colleagues began research on the comparative value of the nearest living relatives of the Jurassic flora as dinosaur fodder about a decade ago within the framework of a Research Unit on the Biology of the Sauropod Dinosaurs, funded by the German Research Foundation.
-end-
About the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Founded in 1940 by thirty-four paleontologists, the Society now has more than 2,300 members representing professionals, students, artists, preparators, and others interested in VP. It is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, with the object of advancing the science of vertebrate paleontology. Journal Web site: Society of Vertebrate Paleontology: http://www.vertpaleo.org

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Related Herbivores Articles from Brightsurf:

Researchers reveal switch used in plant defense against animal attack
UC San Diego researchers have identified the first key biological switch that sounds an alarm in plants when plant-eating animals attack.

More plant diversity, less pesticides
Increasing plant diversity enhances the natural control of insect herbivory in grasslands.

RUDN University mathematician refined the model of predator-prey relations in the wild
The traditional mathematical model of predator-prey relations in the wild does not take into account indirect nonlocal interactions.

Changing landscapes, changing diets
A new study led by Enquye Negash, a postdoctoral researcher in the George Washington University Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences documents dietary shifts in herbivores that lived between 1-3 million years ago in Ethiopia's Lower Omo Valley.

Herbivores, not predators, most at risk of extinction
One million years ago, the extinction of large-bodied plant-eaters changed the trajectory of life on Earth.

Herbivorous vertebrates may face most daunting extinction risk
Herbivores -- not predators -- may face a higher risk of extinction among mammals, birds, and reptiles, according to a new study of more than 44,000 living and extinct species.

Counteracting a legacy of extinctions
Now a new study, comparing the traits of introduced herbivores to those of the past, reveals that introductions have restored many important ecological traits that have been lost for thousands of years.

Pablo Escobar's hippos may help counteract a legacy of extinctions
When cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar was shot dead in 1993, the four hippos in his private zoo in Colombia were left behind.

Reconstructing the diet of fossil vertebrates
Paleodietary studies of the fossil record are impeded by a lack of reliable and unequivocal tracers.

Shrewd savannah species choose friends with benefits on the African plains
For species trying to boost their chances of avoiding predation, it could be a classic case of 'it's not what you know, it's who you know that matters,' according to new research.

Read More: Herbivores News and Herbivores Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.