Planet Earth

77. How Diplodocus Ate Its Dinner

What was the method for keeping this massive plant-eater fed?

By Adam HadhazyJan 15, 2013 6:00 AM
diplodocus.jpg

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

For giant dinosaurs like the 25-ton Diplodocus—an iconic long-necked herbivore—feeding all that flesh was a full-time job. And now we know how the beast did it. An international paleontology team used finite element analysis, a technique commercially used to measure stress on objects such as cars and orthopedic implants. In this case, it was to deduce whether Diplodocus fed by nipping at leaves, stripping them in large quantities from branches, or scraping bark from trees.

The team analyzed a 150-million-year-old skull and found that it would have fractured from bark-scraping, suggesting Diplodocus instead stripped leaves and swallowed them whole, quickly ingesting maximum amounts of food. “By borrowing engineering techniques,” team member Paul Barrett says, “we can make testable models of how extinct animals behaved.”

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2023 Kalmbach Media Co.