Fossilized dinosaur teeth have thrown new light on the behavior of gigantic plant-eating dinosaurs called sauropods.
According to a study conducted by researchers at Colorado College, these huge beasts would migrate hundreds of miles from their home during dry spells to locate food and water. This is the first evidence that tells us some dinosaurs migrated to overcome shortages of seasonal food.
If you’re like me and find dinosaurs fascinating (and if you don’t, WHY?), you may be interested to know that dinosaurs lost their teeth and grew new ones every six months. The new growths would contain elements from the food and water consumed by each dinosaur, with elements differing by location.
So this is where the science comes in. This fresh study focuses on oxygen-18 isotopes in dinosaur teeth. The white coats found that the water and plants in low altitude regions of North America boasted relatively high levels of oxygen-18. It was already known that plants in high altitude locations contained lower levels of oxygen-18.
When measuring the levels of oxygen-18 in sauropod teeth in low altitude regions, scientists found the dinosaurs’ isotope levels were lower than the levels found in the basin. This would logically mean the dinosaurs had departed the basin at some point and returned later.
Says study researcher Henry Fricke:
“Sauropods in western North America were living in an environment that was seasonally dry, that has a pronounced wet season and a pronounced dry season. If you have an animal that needs to eat a lot and drink a lot, it’s going to have to move to access vegetation and to get water.”
Fricke estimates the dinosaurs probably traveled more than 350 miles (600 kilometers) to nom food and water from the highlands. He says: “They appear to show isotopes from the highlands, but they were found in the basin.”
So now you know.