Dinosaur 3D Modeling Reveals Dinosaur Eating Habits
A team of British researchers have just discovered a secret of herbivorous dinosaur eating habits using CT scans and bio-mechanical analysis with FEA, or finite element analysis. FEA is most commonly used to design race cars, airplanes, and for engineering of medical devices.
The researchers, who were from the University of Bristol and the Natural History Museum, were focused on the eating habits of the herbivorous dinosaur Diplodocus in their study. Paul Barrett, one of the researchers, expressed the importance of the study for paleontology, “Using these techniques, borrowed from the worlds of engineering and medicine, we can start to examine the feeding behavior of this long-extinct animal in levels of detail which were simply impossible until recently.”
Mysterious Eating Habits Revealed Through Dinosaur 3D Modeling
Paleontologists know a lot about Diplodocus. It is one of the best known sauropods from the Jurassic period, thanks to a higher than average amount of fossils found in the upper Morrison Formation of Colorado. Paleontologists know that it was incredibly large and that it had a herbivorous diet. However, the exact way that Diplodocus ate its large, plant-based diet has remained a mystery. The herbivore had unusual teeth compared to other dinosaurs in the Sauropod family, so its feeding mechanism would have been much different. It also differed widely from any modern day animals, so scientists can’t infer things about its behavior from any similar animals that we can observe today. Scientists have been forced to speculate about the way it ate and come up with multiple theories, all with a fairly equal chance of being true, until more evidence could be discovered.
Dinosaur 3D Modeling of a Diplodocus Skull
To figure out the elusive eating habits of Diplodocus, scientists made a 3D model developed using dinosaur 3D modeling techniques using a CT scan. Using the CT Scan, they scanned its skull, complete with its characteristic long snout and protruding teeth which were all crowded together at the front of its mouth. Then they used FEA to analyze three types of feeding habits. The analysis revealed the parts of the skull’s mouth that undergo the most stress and strain during feeding to determine the conditions that would cause the most damage.
How did Diplodocus Eat?
The feeding behavior model that was found to potentially cause the most harm to the skull and teeth was the act of stripping bark from trees. A deer is a well-known example of an animal that often strips bark to eat. However, Diplodocus would have found it too difficult. It makes sense, considering a bark-stripping animal, such as a deer or moose, needs that feeding adaptation in order to survive harsh and snowy winters. Diplodocus lived in the warm habitat of the Jurassic period, where leaves were abundant, and the 3D modeling confirmed that leaves are what it liked to eat. It would have experienced little stress raking leaves from branches or through simple biting. This technology provided some clues about feeding habits of herbivores like Diplodocus, but this could be just the beginning. What will researchers discover about dinosaurs next using dinosaur 3D modeling?