Bloomberg News

Dinosaurs Migrated Seasonally Like Birds, Teeth Analysis Shows

November 07, 2011

Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Sauropods, the largest dinosaurs to walk the Earth, migrated hundreds of miles seasonally like birds to find better sources of food and water, a study found, providing new insight into how these creatures lived.

The late Jurassic herbivores would leave their stomping grounds in the western U.S. states during the dry days of summer, and return during the wetter winter months, according to a study released today in the Journal Nature.

Researchers compared oxygen isotope levels in teeth enamel of fossil remains found at Thermopolis, Wyoming, and Dinosaur National Monument in Utah with those found in sentiment from the region. The isotope can be used to measure environmental levels of aridity, as well as elevation, in drinking water. Since the ratios weren’t the same, the scientists concluded the dinosaurs must have left the basin.

While these dinosaurs mainly inhabited wetland environments, such as the basin where the teeth were found, different layers of the enamel suggests they also spent time in drier climates, according to the study.

The sauropods “must have directly occupied high-elevation regions for at least part of the year before returning to the basin where they died,” said Colorado College researchers led by study author Henry Fricke, chairman of the Department of Geology at the college in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

They likely traveled 186 miles (300 kilometers) during a five- to six-month period, before returning to the basin. More research on Sauropods from different regions is needed to determine if migrating was a habit of these animals, or just a response to environmental stress in these particular dinosaurs, the researchers said.

--Editor: Andrew Pollack, Bruce Rule

To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Flinn in San Francisco at rflinn@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net.


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