Early Cretaceous armoured dinosaur Borealopelta markmitchelli ate mostly leaves of ferns. To reconstruct the preferences of ancient reptiles helped fossilized analysis of his stomach contents, the results of which are published in Royal Society Open Science. This is one of the few direct information on the diet of dinosaurs.
We got used to the idea that some dinosaurs were carnivores and others herbivores. However, these views are almost always circumstantial evidence, for example, the structure of the teeth and the digestive system. Direct evidence that a particular type of dinosaur adhered to a certain diet, are rare.
The most valuable data on the diet of ancient dinosaurs can provide koality — fossilized fragments of the contents of the stomach or intestines. At various times reported on the findings Maloletov sauropod (Sauropoda), the duckbilled (Hadrosauridae) and the armored dinosaurs (Ankylosauria). Unfortunately, many of them in a careful study was uninformative. The only exceptions are a few Maloletov of ankylosaurs, which the paleontologists managed to detect the seeds of plants and even fish bones.
A rare opportunity to examine in detail the contents of the dinosaur’s stomach had professionals led by Caleb brown (Caleb M. Brown) from Royal Tyrrel Museum. In 2011, they found in the canadian province of Alberta the instance of armoured dinosaur age of 110 million years, with well-preserved soft tissues. In 2017, it has been described under the name Borealopelta markmitchelli and added to the family of nodosaurs (Nodosauridae).
In addition to the tissues of the dinosaur, the fossil contained a sphere the size of a soccer ball, which paleontologists from the team, brown was defined as colorit. In the new study they did seven slices of fossilized gut contents and have carefully examined them under the microscope. All fragments of plant origin in the opportunities identified.
Analysis of stomach contents showed that the favorite food Borealopelta markmitchelli was the leaves of ferns from a subclass Polypodiidae. They accounted for 85 percent of the swallowed hardwood pulp (share in the contents of the intestine, in turn, reached 88 per cent). Widespread in the early Cretaceous, cycads and conifers constituted a smaller part of the diet, and horsetails, contrary to existing views that were not discovered inside Colonita. Traces of charcoal suggest that the dinosaur was eating the young shoots that came out of the ground after a forest fire.
Paleontologists are also able to establish the time of death of a dinosaur. Judging by the annual rings on a swallowed twig and coolite Mature spores of the fern, his life was cut short in late spring or early summer. Soon after death the body was in the sea, where he hid sediments. They allowed the soft tissues to survive so well.
According to the authors, they studied colorit preserved much better than all known so far. Content analysis allowed not only to evaluate the diet of one species of dinosaurs, but also to partially reconstruct the environment in which he lived.
Sometimes the study of the diet of dinosaurs brings much more grim discoveries. For example, recently researchers were able to detect fossilized bones of allosaurus with traces of teeth relatives. This means that these dinosaurs were cannibals. Maybe they’ve eaten the bones of the fallen members of their own species or even hunted during starvation.
Sergey Knee High