Some dinosaurs said to have conveyor belt teeth, shedding old for new

July 19, 2013 at 5:13 PM   |   Comments

STONY BROOK, N.Y., July 19 (UPI) -- Some dinosaurs had teeth to spare, shedding old ones as often a twice a month with multiple backup teeth waiting in each tooth socket, U.S. paleontologists say.

Rapid tooth replacement by sauropods, the largest animals that ever lived on land, likely contributed to their evolutionary success, Michael D'Emic and colleagues at Stony Brook University in New York said.

The giant herbivores formed and replaced teeth faster than any other type of dinosaur -- more in the manner sharks and crocodiles -- and this process kept teeth fresh given the immense amount of wear they underwent from grazing on the enormous amount of plants in their diet, the researchers said.

"We determined that for the gigantic sauropods, each tooth took just a few months to form," D'Emic said in a Stony Brook release. "Effectively, sauropods took a 'quantity over quality' approach."

Unlike mammals and some other dinosaurs, he explained, sauropods did not chew their food but simply snipped it into smaller pieces before swallowing, a technique that required ever-present sharp teeth.

"A nearly 100-foot-long sauropod would have had a fresh tooth in each position about every one to two months, sometimes less," D'Emic said.

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