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Ammonites' last meal: New light on past marine food chains
Date:1/6/2011

tongue covered with teeth) adapted for eating small prey floating in the water.

The study used synchrotron X-ray microtomography to check the presence, and then digitally reconstruct the mouths of three fossils found in South Dakota. The three-dimensional reconstructions are of such high quality that the jaws and teeth are revealed in their complete form. In addition, one specimen has a tiny snail and three tiny crustaceans in its mouth, one of them having been cut into two parts. Because these planktonic fossils are not found anywhere else on the specimen, the team thinks that the specimen died while eating its last meal rather than being scavenged by these organisms after death.

"I was astonished when I saw the teeth for the first time, and when I found the tiny plankton in the mouth," Isabelle Kruta (MNHN). "For the first time we were able to observe the delicacy of these exceptionally well preserved structures and use high quality details to obtain information on the ecology of these enigmatic animals."

"When you take into consideration the large lower jaws of ammonites in combination with this new information about their teeth, you realize that these animals must have been feeding in a different way from modern carrion-eating Nautilus," says Neil Landman (AMNH). "Ammonites have a surprisingly large lower jaw with slender teeth, but the effect is opposite to that of the wolf threatening to eat Little Red Riding Hood. Here, the bigger mouth facilitates feeding on smaller prey."

"X-ray synchrotron microtomography is currently the most sensitive technique for non-destructive investigations of internal structures of fossils. It started ten years ago with primate teeth, but is now widely applied in paleontology," says Paul Tafforeau (ESRF). " We made a first test on one of the Ammonite specimens after a test with a conventional scanner failed, and the results were so impressive that we scanned all the other available samples, di
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Contact: Claus Habfast
claus.habfast@esrf.fr
33-666-662-384
European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
Source:Eurekalert  

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