Saturday, November 17, 2007

Suck It Up! – Nigersaurus taqueti Breaks The Rules

Sculptor Tyler Keillor reconstructed a flesh head and neck of Nigersaurus under the direction of paleontologists Paul Sereno and Jeff Wilson. Image Credit: Tyler Keillor - Project Exploration

Suck It Up! – Nigersaurus taqueti Breaks The Rules

Life forms here, found on the Oblate Spheroid, at times, become really baffling.

Out on the Saharan desert landscape in Niger, Paleontologist, Dr. Paul Sereno and his colleagues dug up bones that, at first blush, did not seem to make any sense. The teeth were lined up in a straight row at the very front of the jaw. The jaw itself, had a very unusual shape, in that it was the opposite of most jaw shapes (most shapes are narrow at the front and widen toward the back to provide chewing leverage).

Inside the bizarre jaws of Nigersaurus. Image Credit: M. Hettwer - Project Exploration

The broad front part of the jawbone structure along with the unique structure and placement of the teeth, it was deduced, were perfectly suited for sucking, straining, and grinding potential food substances (ie. vacuum-like) before having the digestible material hit the stomach.

The Nigersaurus taqueti went on display November 15, 2007 at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington D.C. and will remain there until March 2008.

DESERT WASTELAND - The discovery site is located in the sandy Ténéré Desert in the Sahara; 110 million years ago, it was a lush environment with broad rivers. Image Credit: M. Hettwer - Project Exploration

This excerpted from AP via YAHOO! -

Dinosaur found with vacuum-cleaner mouth
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer – Washington, D.C. – 11-16-2007

A dinosaur with a strange jaw designed to hoover-up food grazed in what is now the Sahara Desert 110 million years ago. Remains of the creature that "flabbergasted" paleontologist Paul Sereno went on display Thursday at the headquarters of the National Geographic Society.
"The biggest eureka moment was when I was sitting at the desk with this jaw," he [Sereno] said. "I was sitting down just looking at it and saw a groove and ... realized that all the teeth were up front."

It's not normally a good idea to have all the teeth in the front of the jaw — hundreds in this case.

Sure, "it's great for nipping," Sereno said, "but that's not where you want do your food processing."

"That was an amazing moment, we knew we had something no one had ever seen before," Sereno recalled.
While Nigersaurus' mouth is shaped like the wide intake slot of a vacuum, it has something lacking in most cleaners — hundreds of tiny, sharp teeth to grind up its food.

The 30-foot-long Nigersaurus had a feather-light skull held close to the ground to graze like an ancient cow. Sereno described it as a younger cousin of the North American dinosaur Diplodicus.

Its broad muzzle contained more than 50 columns of teeth lined up tightly along the front edge of its jaw. Behind each tooth more were lined up as replacements when one broke off.

A computer-generated endocast of Nigersaurus' brain was created by CT scanning the well-preserved brain case. Image Credit: Project Exploration

Using CT scans the researchers were able study the inside of the animal's skull where the orientation of canals in the organ that helps keep balance disclosed the habitual low pose of the head, they reported.
The dinosaur's anatomy and lifestyle were to be detailed in the Nov. 21 issue of PLoS ONE, the online journal from the Public Library of Science, and in the December issue of National Geographic magazine.
The research was partly funded by National Geographic where, Sereno said, "you can see the hideous jaw elements in person."

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