Friday, 28 October 2011

Dinosaurs may have migrated: study

Giant plant-eating dinosaurs may have lumbered across hundreds of miles as they made seasonal migrations in search of food and water, scientists believe.

The long-necked "sauropods", which stood on four legs, were the largest animals that ever walked the Earth.

Given their enormous appetites and water needs, their ability to survive in lowland flood plains affected by seasonal dry spells and drought has puzzled scientists.

Now researchers have learned at least one dinosaur species made regular journeys between lowland to highland habitats covering several hundred miles.

The evidence is in the teeth of Camarasaurus, a large sauropod which grew to a length of 60ft and weighed to 18 tonnes.

Fossilised Camarasaurus teeth, found in the US states of Wyoming and Utah, contained a chemical record of the animals' movements during the Late Jurassic period around 150 million years ago.

Different atomic versions of oxygen, or isotopes, occur in the surface water of lowland and highland regions.

These differences remained imprinted in the oxygen from drinking water deposited in the Camarasaurus teeth.

Comparing the oxygen isotopes to those in ancient soil, lake and wetland samples revealed a picture of the dinosaurs' migration patterns.

The researchers, led by Dr Henry Fricke, from Colorado College, US, wrote in the journal Nature: "Camarasaurus populations... must have directly occupied high-elevated regions for at least part of the year before returning to the basin where they died."

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