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Prehistoric Animals

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Diet

Diet and digestion

Dinosaurs had multiple strategies for taking their food in, then digesting it and transforming it. There are a lot of different ways to determine dinosaurs diet. Teeth, claws and jaws show us their preference, while the rarer fossils where the contents of the stomach has been preserved tell us what they ate. The coprolites (fossilized excrement) and the knowledge we have about the fauna and flora of this time will allow us to determine what kind of food a particular dinosaur ate.

Carnivorous

Tyrannosaurus - Carnivorous theropod

Theropods had long forelimbs with sharp, curved claws that allowed them to catch their prey and disembowel it with their rows of sharp teeth. The imposing Jurassic Allosaurus probably hunted animals ten times bigger than him. It must have snared its victims before gutting them and letting them die out of blood. Perhaps it also ate the big sauropods or attacked the smaller stegosaurs and Camatosaurus. The skeleton of smaller theropods, by their flexibility, gave them greater agility to hunt animals smaller than them, or to tackle larger prey in groups. The tyrannosaurus with frail forelegs was an exception. It was obviously not using it to capture his prey, but its mouth was so big that it could bite with more force than any other known animal. Being also the biggest representative of his geographical era, it could tackle any prey.

Herbivorous

Triceratops - Herbivorous ceratopsian

Most Mesozoic plants were nutrient-poor and difficult to grind. In response to these problems, herbivores used a variety of strategies, which for the vast majority of them consisted of processing large quantities of food. The sauropods tore the plants and swallowed them without even transforming them. Because they could ingest huge amounts of food, they had to break it up to keep the few nutrients, which they did in a huge forestomach or gizzard, where the food was mashed with pebbles called gastroliths which favored fragmentation. Pachycephalosaurs, ornithopods and ceratopsians used another strategy. They used their teeth as grinders to grind the food before eating it. These teeth, thus put to contribution, were worn out quickly. But once out of order, they were replaced. Ornithischians pushed this technique to the extreme by developing batteries of teeth that functioned as a single abrasive disc and grew throughout their lives, which could consist of hundreds of teeth. The front teeth tore off the plant, which was then crushed by the back teeth. Ornithischians quickly evolved a sharp bill rather than use their front teeth. Their cheeks prevented food from falling during chewing. In several specimens, we have seen bony ridges around the mouth on which the cheeks probably rested.