Some dinosaur species changed skull shape during growth: Study

Last Updated: Thursday, April 1, 2010 - 18:30

Washington: Some dinosaur species went
through drastic changes in their skull shape during normal
growth because of different juvenile and adult feeding
behaviours, a new research has showed.

After examining the fossil of a young sauropod
dinosaur rediscovered in the collections of Carnegie Museum of
Natural History, paleontologists at the University of Michigan
found that the skull of diplodocus, a 150 million-year-old
sauropod, went through drastic changes.

They said that these changes in skull shape may have
been tied to feeding behaviour, with adults and juveniles
eating different foods to avoid competition. Young diplodocus,
with their narrower snouts, may also have been choosier
browsers, selecting high quality plant parts.

The team led by John Whitlock and Jeffrey Wilson, who
wrote their research in the Journal of Vertebrate
Paleontology, said the fossil offers a rare chance to look at
the early life history of Diplodocus which was found in
western North America.

"Adult sauropod skulls are rare, but juvenile skulls
are even rarer. What we do know about the skulls of sauropods
like Diplodocus has been based entirely on adults so far,"
said Whitlock.

Wilson said, "Diplodocus had an unusual skull. Adults
had long, square snouts, unlike the rounded or pointed snouts
of other sauropods. Up until now, we assumed juveniles did
too."

The small Diplodocus skull, however, suggests that
major changes occurred in the skull throughout the animal`s
life.

"Although this skull is plainly that of a juvenile
Diplodocus, in many ways it is quite different from those of
the adults," Whitlock said.

"Like those of most young animals, the eyes are
proportionally larger, and the face is smaller. What was
unexpected was the shape of the snout -- it appears to have
been quite pointed, rather than square like the adults ".

"This gives us a whole new perspective on what these
animals may have looked like at different points in their
lives."

They said, "This little Diplodocus skull was discovered
in 1921, and more than 80 years passed before we recognised
its significance.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 - 18:30

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