A huge new finding indicates that plant-eating dinosaurs may have had a little bit of meat in their diets after all, and crabs in particular.
We all assumed that herbivore dinosaurs strictly ate plants, but a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that these dinosaurs may have commonly eaten crustaceans as well. Paleontologists made this discovery after finding shells in fossilized dung from plant-eating dinosaurs.
While this doesn’t prove that plant-eating dinosaurs aren’t strict herbivores for the most part, it does suggest that their diets may be a bit more complex. It’s hard to determine what a dinosaur’s diet is as usually all we have to go on is skeletal clues like their jaw shapes.
Specifically, scientists studied herbivore dinosaurs that roamed present-day Utah about 75 million years ago, or 10 million years before dinosaurs were wiped out. Scientists called it “totally unexpected” behavior, and it will certainly challenge long-held beliefs about the lifestyles of herbivore dinosaurs.
“Some big plant-eating dinosaurs roaming present-day Utah some 75 million years ago were slurping up crustaceans on the side, a behavior that may have been tied to reproductive activities, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study,” reads a university statement. “The evidence for the crustacean-chowing dinosaurs comes from fossilized feces samples known as coprolites, said Associate Professor Karen Chin, curator of paleontology at CU Boulder’s Museum of Natural History. Dating to the late Cretaceous Period, the coprolites were discovered in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah by a team from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science who invited Chin out to their dig.”