Dinosaurs’ ability to adapt to new diets may explain their success • Earth.com

Dinosaurs dominated Earth’s terrestrial habitats for over 100 million years during the Mesozoic Era. At the peak of its success, herbivores such as long-necked sauropods and tyrannosaurus rex and their relatives. But they weren’t always the magnificent, imposing reptiles we’re so familiar with.

It dates back to the early Triassic period (about 230 million years ago) when dinosaurs first evolved. They lived mostly in the shadow of the smaller, much more successful crocodile-like archosaurs. We know that something happened early in the evolution of snails that enabled them to adapt to a wide range of habitats and lifestyles.

At the end of the Triassic, a mass extinction event occurred that wiped out competitors like crocodiles, but most of the early dinosaurs survived. It was able to evolve into a diverse species that dominated the Earth until extinction.

Important ways in which early dinosaurs changed included skull shape and tooth morphology.This is thought to indicate that they began to diversify their diet and eat different foods. The research team has now been able to compare them to living reptiles and their diets. Their findings are published in the journal scientific progress.

“Shortly after the birth of dinosaurs, we begin to see an interesting diversity in skull and tooth shapes. I had a suspicion that it might,” explains lead author of the study, Dr.

Researchers compared fossilized teeth of early dinosaurs to those of modern lizard species and determined what dinosaurs ate based on similarities in their diets to known modern lizard species. I tried to guess.

“We investigated this by applying a suite of computational methods that quantify the shape and function of early dinosaur teeth and compare them to living reptiles with different diets,” said Dr. Ballell. . “This involved mathematically modeling the tooth geometry and using engineering software to simulate the mechanical response to bite forces.”

“This suite of methods allowed us to numerically quantify how similar early dinosaurs were to modern animals, providing solid evidence for dietary inference.” Dinosaurs have small, serrated, pointed, curved, blade-like teeth that behave like modern monitor lizards,” explained study co-author Professor Mike Benton. “By contrast, the dentate teeth of ornithischians and sauropodomorphs more resemble modern omnivores and herbivores, such as iguanas.”

This groundbreaking study used machine learning models to classify early dinosaurs into different dietary categories based on tooth shape and mechanics.Researchers have found some of the species to be Thecodontosaurus (one of the oldest known dinosaurs) had teeth that were perfectly adapted to a diet of plants. However, many of the groups that eventually became herbivorous actually had omnivorous ancestors.and long-necked herbivores Diplodocushad meat-eating ancestors.

The researchers suggest that this ability to diversify diets early in evolution likely explains the evolutionary and ecological success of dinosaurs.

“Our analysis reveals that Ornithischians — a group that includes many plant-eating species such as horned dinosaurs, armored ankylosaurus, and platypus dinosaurs — began as omnivores. Another interesting finding is that it is the ancestor of the earliest sauropodomorphs, the long-necked, vegetable-like sauropods. Diplodocuswas a carnivore. This indicates that, contrary to traditional hypotheses, herbivores were not the ancestors of either of these two lineages, and that early dinosaur diets were highly diverse.

Dr. Ballell concludes:

To Alison Bosman, Earth.com staff writer

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