June 25, 2009

First nut-eating dinosaur revealed

University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno says Psittacosaurus gobiensis is the first dinosaur species that ate mainly nuts.

Sereno, who discovered fossils of the 3-foot-long dinosaur in Inner Mongolia in 2001, said the skull features of the dinosaur that lived 110 million years ago are reminiscent of a parrot, the Chicago Sun-Times said Thursday.

The parallels in the skull to that in parrots, the descendants of dinosaurs most famous for their nut-cracking habits, is remarkable, said Sereno, who was aided in the discovery by two colleagues from China.

Sereno also pointed out in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B how the fossilized remains of the dinosaur species revealed a unique digestive system.

The Psittacosaurus at hand has a huge pile of stomach stones, more than 50, to grind away at whatever it eats, and this is totally out of proportion to its three-foot body length, the paleontologist said.

The Sun-Times said the details of the newest dinosaur species support theories that dinosaurs were ancestors to modern birds.