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Indian dinosaurs survived on grass

For the first time a study suggests the possible co-evolution of grasses and dinosaurs, say US palaeontologists.

india Updated: Nov 18, 2005 12:03 IST

First evidence for grass-eating dinosaurs has been obtained by study of fossils that were taken from a site at Pisdura in the Deccan Traps of central India.

The sauropod dinosaurs that lived in present-day India about 65 million years ago ate grasses, a team of Swedish and Indian researchers have reported in the journal Science.

The scientists who analysed the fossilised dung of the dinosaurs recovered tiny bits of silica called "phytoliths" that are known to form in the cells and tissues of grasses.

This discovery has important implications for understanding the evolution of grasses and dinosaur ecology, according to Caroline Stromberg of the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm and co-authors from the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany in Lucknow and the Punjab University in Chandigarh.

They said their data showed that at least five different groups of grasses were present on the Indian subcontinent during that time when dinosaurs also roamed the land.

The study is the first to suggest the possible "co-evolution of grasses and dinosaurs," US palaeontologists Dolores Piperno and Hans-Dieter Sues at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington said in a commentary appearing in the journal.

"These remarkable results will force reconsideration of many long-standing assumptions about grass evolution, dinosaurian ecology, and early plant-herbivore interactions," they said.

The dinosaurs were not the only grass eaters of the era. Certain early mammals with enigmatic teeth that roamed the Gondwanaland -- the former supercontinent which included South America, Africa, peninsular India, Australia, and Antarctica -- may have also eaten grass, according to the authors.

First Published: Nov 18, 2005 11:56 IST