Monday, July 25, 2011

Two-legged Dinosaurs were peace-loving veggies

Most violent two-legged Dinosaurs became peaceable vegan, according to new research, writes Geoffrey Lean.

Scientists at Chicago's Field Museum studied the diet of 90 species of theropods – colloquially called "predatory dinosaurs", which in a lot of cases became the ancestors of modern birds – examining the teeth, fossilised dung (the mind boggles) and stones in the stomach that had been used to grind vegetation.

They establish that even though the therapods' bodies still made them ideal hunter-killers – which is how leading scientists had believed they remained until they became extinct – most species, in fact, turned vegetarian.

"Somewhere on the line to birds," says the familiar researcher, Dr Lindsay Zanno, "predatory dinosaurs went soft." Ultimately, they developed toothless beaks.

Another study, by the University of Texas, augments the image of the peace-loving dinosaur by challenging another conventional view – which they took over the world by driving out other animals. Instead, it seems, they were "humbler, more opportunistic creatures" that took benefit of a mass extinction 200 million years ago. "They didn't invade the neighborhood," says Prof Tim Rowe. "They waited for the inhabitants to leave and then moved in when no one was watching."

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