Sereno and coauthors write in PLoS ONE that Nigersaurus downwardly deflected muzzle may characterize most diplodocoids, such as North Americas Diplodocus. Some of these unusual sauropods thrived to become the pre-eminent ground-level feeders of the Mesozoic, said coauthor Jeffrey Wilson, assistant professor at the University of Michigan.
CT scanning allowed Sereno and team to look inside the dinosaurs braincase. There, small canals of the brains balancing organ revealed the habitual pose of the head. Reconstructed from CT scans, these canals showed that the muzzle of Nigersaurus angled directly toward the ground, unlike the forward-pointing snouts of most other dinosaurs. This feature, along with unusual wear facets on the animals teeth, led Sereno and colleagues to conclude that Nigersaurus largely fed by cropping plants near the ground.
Coauthor Lawrence Witmer, professor at Ohio University, who imaged the brain and organ of equilibrium, said, What we have here is the first good look at a sauropod brain, and it has important things to say about this animals posture and behavior.
Jaw design was not Nigersaurus only odd characteristic: It had a backbone that was more air than bone. The vertebrae are so paper-thin that it is difficult to imagine them coping with the stresses of everyday use but we know they did it, and they did it well, said Wilson, who was an expedition team member.
The first bones of Nigersaurus were picked up in the 1950s by French paleontologists, though the species was not named. Sereno and his team honored this early work by naming the species after French paleontologist Philipp
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