London: As many as 100 dinosaurs could have crowded into New York’s Central Park, estimated a palaeontologist.
James Farlow of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and colleagues have worked out the food needs and resources of a dino population preserved in a deposit called the Morrison formation, which stretches across Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
Dating from around 150 million years ago, near the end of the Jurassic period, the Morrison formation holds many of the long-necked giants called sauropods.
The formation also holds fossil ferns and cycads, which allowed Farlow and colleagues to estimate how much food was available for Jurassic herbivores to eat.
And to see what was eating it, the team surveyed the species present, reports New Scientist.
In one layer, they counted 135 sauropod specimens – including 31 Apatosaurus, the behemoth formerly known as Brontosaurus.
These huge herbivores account for much more biomass than smaller creatures in this region, including their own young, and would have gulped down most of the available food.
Calculating dinosaur appetites was a slightly more complicated task because their metabolism is unknown.
If they were warm-blooded like mammals, their needs would be similar to those of modern hippos and elephants – although their larger sizes should have made them somewhat more energy-efficient.
Farlow calculates that a square kilometre could host only a few full-sized sauropods with mammalian metabolisms.
But if they had slow, cold-blooded metabolisms like lizards, they could have survived on a much more meagre diet, and the same area could hold tens of the giants.
Putting this into more concrete terms, he took into account New York````s Central Park, which sits across the street from the American Museum of Natural History````s famed dinosaur collection, and which has been populated with dinosaurs in films from ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms’ to ‘Night at the Museum’.
At 3.4 square kilometres, a slice of Morrison landscape the size of Central Park might have fed several warm-blooded adult sauropods, including one or two full-sized apatosaurs.
Alternatively, perhaps 100 cold-blooded sauropods could have crowded into this Jurassic city park.
The study has been published in Historical Biology.