FROM THE EDUCATION DESK
School will be starting for most of you in late August……WOW that went fast! I hope everyone had a really great summer and that you got to visit us here at the museum.
Limusaurus inextricabilis…This dinosaur species had teeth as babies, but lost them as they grew and did not grow another set as adults. This is a radical change in anatomy during a lifespan and may help to explain why birds have beaks but no teeth. Limusaurus is part of the theropod group of dinosaurs, the evolutionary ancestors of birds.
During this time frame, the environment would have been warm and dry with warm, wet summers and dry winters due to the monsoonal influences.
The research team studied 19 Limusaurus skeletons, discovered in “death traps” where they became covered in mud, got stuck and died, in the Xinjiang Province of China. These mud pits ranged in depth from 3ft 3in.-6ft. 7in. and were likely created by soil liquefaction from the
footsteps of large dinosaurs. The dinosaurs ranged in age from baby to adult, showing the pattern of tooth loss over time. The baby skeletons had small, sharp teeth, and the adult skeletons were consistently toothless. Juveniles started with 42 teeth. In specimens older than one year all of the teeth were missing.
This discovery is important because it is very rare to find a growth series from baby to adult dinosaurs and this change in anatomy suggests there was a big shift in the dinosaur’s diet from adolescence to adulthood. These fossils indicate that baby Limusaurus could have been carnivores or omnivores while adults were herbivores.
“For most dinosaur species we have a few specimens and a very incomplete understanding of their developmental biology,” said Josef Stiegler, a co-author of the study. “The large sample size of this dinosaur allowed us to use several lines of evidence to understand developmental and dietary changes in this animal, continued Stiegler.”
Limusaurus, meaning “mud lizard” is a dinosaur from the Jurassic period. It was a small, slender animal, about 5ft. 7in. in length, weighing about 33lbs. It had a short skull with large eye sockets. Its neck and legs were long and It had small forelimbs with short, stout claws.
The materials for this story were provided by George Washington University and published in Current Biology.
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