Saturday, November 26, 2005

Mesozoic Grass?

` Once upon a time, I was talking to James T. Kirkland, a famous paleontologist who probably detests Star Trek. I asked him when grass appeared in the fossil record to the best of our knowledge, having read several times that this was long after the Age of Dinosaurs, around the time primitive horses were evolving.
` Unlike all the other paleontologists, however, he said; "Oh of course dinosaurs ate grass!" This was quite confusing to me, and I'd wondered where he'd gotten that from.

` Of course, being conditioned to never question authorities, I just sat there with a puzzled expression. Really, I still don't know what he was smoking back then.
` A bit later on, in fact, Kirkland appeared in the breathtaking work of art; Walking With Dinosaurs on the Discovery Channel, a 'prehistoric nature documentary' well-known for its few inaccuracies. Accordingly, there was no grass in this documentary, because none had been found in the fossil record until later on.

` However, that's all changed now: According to a Nature article I was able to access a few days ago (but not anymore), there is now evidence that a titanosaur from (what is now) India was eating this tough plant! The evidence: Its fossilized dung contained what appears to be bits of various silica-rich grasses!
` Apparently, grass was around at least near the end of the Mesozoic, along with a type of gondwanathere mammal with horse-like teeth. Evidently, the reason we hadn't found it before was because it was extremely rare until about the time primitive horses, artiodactyls and hyraxes began to take over the role of large herbivore.

` For more information, click the title of this post - it is linked to a BBC news article on the same subject.

3 comments:

Galtron said...

Ah yes, I guess grass just wasn't very popular until mammals started eating a lot of it or something. It's hidden itself from us for quite a while... which explains various books and forum entries and etc etc.

S E E Quine said...

` Ah, yes, it was quite rare compared to other plants, and was evidently not a large part of at least most dinosaurs' diets.

cassie d said...

how interesting! So is this the type of green grass we know and love, or are these more ornamental grasses? it seems odd to think that there were no grassy fields. But maybe they were just small fescue clumps or something....