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

scovering nearly each time a radula and for one of them, many other structures."

Ammonite jaws lie just inside the body chamber. The research team's new scans of Baculites, a straight ammonite found world-wide, confirms older research that ammonites had multiple cusps on their radula teeth. The radula can now be seen in exquisite detail: the tallest cusp is 2 mm high, tooth shape varies from saber to comb-like, and teeth are very slender. The jaw is typical of this group of ammonites (the aptychophorans) in that the lower jaw is larger than the upper jaw and consists of two halves separated along a midline.

Until recently, the role of ammonites in the marine food web was unknown, although some clues were provided by Landman and colleagues on the shape of the jaw, as well as a 1992 paper by Russian scientists that reconstructed some of the internal structures by slicing fossils..

"The plankton in the Baculites jaws is the first direct evidence of how these uncoiled ammonites fed. This helps in understanding their evolutionary success in the Cretaceous." says Fabrizio Cecca (UPMC).

"Our research suggests several things. First, the radiation of aptychophoran ammonites might be associated with the radiation of plankton during the Early Jurassic," say Landman. "In addition, plankton were severely hit at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, and the loss of their food source probably contributed to the extinction of ammonites. This research has implications for understanding carbon cycling during this time".

Isabelle Rouget (UPMC) agrees, adding that "we now realize that ammonites occupied a different niche in the food chain than we previously thought."


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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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