Scientists have stumbled upon a rare phenomenon as they found a dinosaur species that may have lost its teeth. Not only that, but it may have also grown a beak.
Who would have thought about a toothless dinosaur? One that also sports a beak. Who could have thought that it may be related to a dinosaur with teeth and no beak?
Paleontologists have reached a surprising conclusion. Not only do these dinosaur species exist, they could actually be the same species.
The unusual dinosaur species was discovered in China. About 19 dinosaur skeletons were discovered in the Gobi dessert. The respective fossils are believed to be some 160 million years old.
Some of the fossils had teeth. At the same time, other did not. However, their bone structure revealed shallow depressions that might have worked as tooth socks. Other fossils also lacked teeth but sported traces of a keratinous beak.
Researchers from the George Washington University took to studying the unusual bones. Their results were released earlier this week. They were published in the Current Biology journal on December 22.
The study was led by Josef Stiegler and was titled as follows. “Extreme Changes in a Ceratosaurian Theropod.” Stiegler is a Ph.D. candidate in paleontology.
He went to offer explanations. The cause of the puzzlement was centered around the teeth formations. Younger specimens had teeth whilst adults lacked them.
These latter may have also potentially sported a beak whilst alive. They were also found to have had gastroliths.
Gastroliths are rocks located in a bird’s gullet. They are used in mechanical digestion and are common among modern birds. The younger dinosaur specimens lacked such stones.
Still, the respective dinosaur species also shared a lot of physical features. Their main difference was centered around the eating mechanisms.
Upon trying to classify the 19 fossils in a class, the researchers reached a surprising conclusion. They determined that they were indeed the same species.
As such, the specimens joined the dinosaur species dubbed Limusaurus inextricabilis. Following this conclusion, the researchers continued their study of their teeth.
They reached the following theory. According to it, the dinosaurs must have been losing their teeth as they aged. This would also explain their change in eating habits and diet.
The younger specimens’ teeth were adapted for an omnivorous or carnivorous diet. As such, they could have fed on small insects.
Adult dinosaurs, toothless and beaked, must have had a herbivorous diet. The gastroliths would have also helped by digesting grains.
The anatomy change within the dinosaur species would have explained the dietary change. It could also account for their habitat customs.
Adults and youngsters could have lived together, without fighting over food.
Gastroliths are believed to be involved in the diet change. They are not a born-with element. A herbivore animal would have to swallow rocks.
According to Stiegler, the Limusaurus is part of the Ceratosaur family. All the dinosaur species part of the family have, as yet, presented carnivorous-type teeth.
As such, Limusaurus babies are believed to have used these teeth. They would have allowed them to feed before growing up. After ingesting the rocks, they would have turned to a vegetarian life.
The discovered specimens ages ran up to 10 years old. They are believed to have matured up to the age of 6. However, by the age of 1, they would have already lost their teeth. the process was analyzed thanks to the 19 discovered fossils.
As most other reptiles regenerate their teeth, these did not. Instead, they shed their teeth and never replaced them. Their tooth socks were seen to close over, and almost disappear.
The teeth loss of this dinosaur species is quite unique and dramatic. It marks the first case to have ever been found in the fossil registry.
Their evolution was quite extraordinary. And the fact that such a varied set of specimens has been found is also very important. Both the adult and the young specimens will help move along research.
Growth-related tooth loss is a very rare process. Only a few still living animals have revealed such a custom.
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