Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Evidence Of Gut Parasite Found In Dinosaur

Date:
October 24, 2006
Source:
University of Colorado at Boulder
Summary:
University of Colorado at Boulder researchers have discovered what appears to be the first evidence of parasites in the gut contents of a dinosaur, indicating even the giants that roamed Earth 75 million years ago were beset by stomach worms.

An artist's conception of Leonardo, a duck-billed dinosaur known as a brachylophosaur excavated in Montana, as it may have looked shortly after its death. (Artwork courtesy Greg Wenzel)

University of Colorado at Boulder researchers have discovered what appears to be the first evidence of parasites in the gut contents of a dinosaur, indicating even the giants that roamed Earth 75 million years ago were beset by stomach worms.

Related Articles


The evidence was found in an exceptionally well preserved duck-billed dinosaur dug from the rocks of the Judith River Formation near Malta, Mont. Assistant Professor Karen Chin of CU-Boulder's geological sciences department and former graduate student Justin Tweet identified more than 200 suspected parasite burrows in 17 samples of gut material from the dinosaur that most likely were made by tiny worms similar to annelids and nematodes that infest animals today, she said.

"Fossil evidence for interactions between dinosaurs and invertebrates usually involves insects," said Chin, also a curator of paleontology for the University of Colorado Museum and an internationally known expert in trace fossils. "This research is exciting because it provides evidence for the movement of tiny, soft-bodied organisms inside the gut cavity of a dinosaur."

The findings are being presented at the 118th annual meeting of the Geological Society of America held Oct. 22 to Oct. 25 in Philadelphia.

The dinosaur, a brachylophosaur dubbed "Leonardo," was excavated in 2000 and 2001 by a team led by Nate Murphy, curator of paleontology at the Phillips County Museum in Malta. Considered one of the best preserved dinosaurs, the fossilized skeleton is three-dimensional and has been mineralized over the eons.

Tweet, who received his master's degree from CU-Boulder in August 2006, said the stomach contents show only a single type of burrow. "Typically a carcass attracts multiple scavengers, and this one was largely undisturbed," he said. "Since the carcass was apparently buried before it had a chance to fall apart, we think remnant parasites may have been living inside of the animal when it died."

Duck-billed dinosaurs were plant-eaters, reaching up to 50 feet long and weighing up to three tons. Evidence from Montana paleontologists indicates they may have migrated to their nesting grounds and even nurtured their young after they hatched. Some scientists speculate the crest on the skull of some duckbills may have served a resonating chamber to make deep, loud sounds for communication purposes.

The gut contents of "Leonardo" consists of a mix of fingernail-sized plant fragments mixed in a clay-rich matrix of sediment, said Tweet. Tiny white burrows visible throughout the gut-contents material were analyzed with microscopes connected to computer screens to chart their size and routes, he said.

The CU-Boulder researchers counted at least 10 cases of "paired burrows" sharing a common burrow wall in the dinosaur gut, and in several cases such burrows even match changes in direction, suggesting they were made by two individuals at the same time, said Chin. The parallel routes suggest short periods of sustained contact, which could be related to a social interaction such as mating, she said.

In addition, collaborator Dennis Braman of the Canadian Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, has discovered pollen from 40 distinct plant species in the gut region of the dinosaur carcass, said Chin.

"The wider interest in all of this is a better understanding of dinosaur ecology, including what they were eating and how they interacted with their contemporaries," Tweet said.

Chin, whose research focuses on the structure and dynamics of ancient ecosystems using trace fossils and body fossils, is considered one of the world's experts on coprolites, or fossilized feces. In 1998 she studied the first fossilized Tyrannosaurus rex coprolites, which contained bits of plant-eating dinosaurs.

She currently is involved in several research projects, including an investigation of coprolites from the Arctic, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.

"Leonardo" is currently on display at the Judith River Dinosaur Field Station in Malta.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Colorado at Boulder. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Colorado at Boulder. "Evidence Of Gut Parasite Found In Dinosaur." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061023192536.htm>.
University of Colorado at Boulder. (2006, October 24). Evidence Of Gut Parasite Found In Dinosaur. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061023192536.htm
University of Colorado at Boulder. "Evidence Of Gut Parasite Found In Dinosaur." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061023192536.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

India Clears Cows, Dogs, Dust for Obama Taj Mahal Trip

India Clears Cows, Dogs, Dust for Obama Taj Mahal Trip

AFP (Jan. 23, 2015) Preparations are under way at the Taj Mahal ahead of a visit by Barack and Michelle Obama. Duration: 01:11 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lincoln Collection to Be Auctioned in Dallas

Lincoln Collection to Be Auctioned in Dallas

AP (Jan. 23, 2015) Hundreds of pieces of Lincoln memorabilia collected by a Fort Worth, Texas businessman are set to be auctioned this weekend. (Jan. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Phones Used 100 Years Ago on Display

Phones Used 100 Years Ago on Display

AP (Jan. 22, 2015) The phones used to make the world&apos;s first coast-to-coast conference call 100 years ago have been put on display at the California Historical Society&apos;s 1915 World&apos;s Fair exhibit space in San Francisco. (Jan. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
King Tutankhamun Burial Mask Sloppily Glued Back Together After Cleaning Mishap

King Tutankhamun Burial Mask Sloppily Glued Back Together After Cleaning Mishap

Buzz60 (Jan. 22, 2015) King Tutankhamun Burial Mask is now being called &apos;irreversibly damaged&apos; after its famous beard broke off in a botched cleaning job and then was hastily glued back together. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins