Bite and tooth marks on sauropod dinosaurs from the Morrison Formation

Roberto Lei, Emanuel Tschopp, Christophe Hendrickx, Mathew J. Wedel, Mark Norell, David W. E. Hone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Tooth-marked bones provide important evidence for feeding choices made by extinct carnivorous animals. In the case of the dinosaurs, most bite traces are attributed to the large and robust osteophagous tyrannosaurs, but those of other large carnivores remain underreported. Here we report on an extensive survey of the literature and some fossil collections cataloging a large number of sauropod bones (68) from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of the USA that bear bite traces that can be attributed to theropods. We find that such bites on large sauropods, although less common than in tyrannosaur-dominated faunas, are known in large numbers from the Morrison Formation, and that none of the observed traces showed evidence of healing. The presence of tooth wear in non-tyrannosaur theropods further shows that they were biting into bone, but it remains difficult to assign individual bite traces to theropod taxa in the presence of multiple credible candidate biters. The widespread occurrence of bite traces without evidence of perimortem bites or healed bite traces, and of theropod tooth wear in Morrison Formation taxa suggests preferential feeding by theropods on juvenile sauropods, and likely scavenging of large-sized sauropod carcasses.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16327
Number of pages34
JournalPeerJ
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2023

Keywords

  • Dinosauria
  • Ichnology
  • Predator-Prey
  • Sauropoda
  • Theropoda

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