From Bozeman, Mont., at the 61st annual meeting of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology
Small particles trapped in minuscule cracks or pits in the fossilized teeth of
some plant-eating dinosaurs could give scientists a way to identify what types of
greenery the ancient herbivores munched.
Many types of plants produce phytoliths–literally, plant stones–in their stems and
leaves by converting the silica dissolved in groundwater into a crystalline form
similar to opals. These tiny parcels of grit come in a wide variety of shapes and
sizes, and they have a microscopic structure different from that in silica
crystals formed by geologic processes, says David A. Krauss, a paleobiologist at
Because they're harder than tooth enamel, phytoliths scratch tooth surfaces and
can become embedded in small cracks there. Krauss examined a collection of teeth
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