After the roars and shrieks of Jurassic World accompanied by XXL tubs of popcorn and Diet Cokes, one might walk away with the impression of ‘nature, red in tooth and claw’. After all, the big bad Rexy and other genetically engineered grisly pretenders to the throne of the Apex Predator are meatosauruses!
But in reality, most dinosaurs of the late Jurassic and Cretaceous period were herbivores and omnivores. When dinosaurs ruled the earth, a lot of things differ when compared to contemporary times. The earth was still young, there were more active volcanoes, the climate was warmer and the air was humid.
Life was slowly set on the path of increasing complexity with the evolution of single-celled organisms into the ginormous beasts that changed the face of the earth. The atmosphere was denser than today, rich in carbon dioxide. The abundance of carbon dioxide caused ferns and conifers to flourish throughout the Mesozoic era.
Being the most numerous in mere diversity, the plant kingdom supported most of life. Evolving life forms in the animal kingdom (read dinosaurs) had to adapt to feeding on the vibrant vegetation to sustain themselves.
Which is one of the reasons why most dinosaurs were plant-eaters.
Even InGen said that!
Analysis of fossilized dental records also indicate at the dinos’ spinach-chomping abilities. Triceratops, hadrosaurs, brachiosaurs- all had dental structure that would have best suited eating plants. Carnivores like the T-Rex, raptors and spinosaurus however have pointy, serrated teeth that would have functioned like a showcase set of steak knives in their mean jaws! Studies made on coprolite (fossilised dino droppings) of different dinosaurs show a presence of a variety of plant material too.
Last April, the findings of a paleontological research team gave more even insights into the unpopular fact that most dinosaurs were herbivores. An outlandish-looking dinosaur (as if other dinosaurs weren’t outlandish-looking by themselves) has been discovered by a precocious seven year old kid of palaeontologist parents in Chile.
The species was named Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, in honour of the country where the fossil was found and the boy who found it. Chilesaurus diegosuarezi has skeletal features unlike any other dinosaur fossil found so far. Classified as a theropod, Chilesaurus diegosaurezi falls under the same group which comprises of the greatest predator that ever lived on the earth- the infamous T-Rex!
Chilesaurus diegosuarezi has a skull and neck that resembles those of primitive long-necked dinosaurs, and its vertebrae those of primitive meat-eating theropods. It had robust arms, but just two blunt fingers on each hand. It was bipedal, but its wide, four-toed feet were unlike the slender, three-toed feet of most theropods. And it had a bird-like pelvis. The bizarreness of Chilesaurus diegosuarezi has been compared to the duck-billed platypus of Australia.
An artist’s rendition of Chilesaurus diegosuarezi
Well, extinction didn’t wipe out all the dinosaurs. Scientists say that they evolved into the next feasible form of life; avians and reptiles.
The next time you take a Jurassic bite into that chicken sandwich, remember the evolution inbetween.
As Dr. Malcolm so eloquently put it, “Life finds a way”.