Thursday, November 17, 2005

Dinosaurs Ate Grass

Dinosaur Coprolites and the Early Evolution of Grasses and Grazers. Vandana Prasad, Caroline A. E. Strömberg, Habib Alimohammadian, and Ashok Sahni. Science 310:1177-1180.

Silicified plant tissues (phytoliths) preserved in Late Cretaceous coprolites from India show that at least five taxa from extant grass (Poaceae) subclades were present on the Indian subcontinent during the latest Cretaceous.
This taxonomic diversity suggests that crown-group Poaceae had diversified and spread in Gondwana before India became geographically isolated. Other phytoliths extracted from the coprolites (from dicotyledons, conifers, and palms) suggest that the suspected dung producers (titanosaur sauropods) fed indiscriminately on a wide range of plants. These data also make plausible the hypothesis that gondwanatherian mammals with hypsodont cheek teeth were grazers.