All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
25 01, 2014

Did Dinosaurs Eat Grass?

By | January 25th, 2014|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Teaching|0 Comments

Did Dinosaurs Eat Grass?

Spotted in a magazine and sent into Everything Dinosaur with some accompanying notes was this article (reproduced below), which stated that plant-eating dinosaurs did not eat grass.  The sender wondered why a picture of the carnivorous Tyrannosaurus rex had been used to illustrate this snippet and they asked whether the assertion that plant-eating dinosaurs did not eat grass was true.

Article Sent Into Everything Dinosaur

Did plant-eating dinosaurs eat grass?

Did plant-eating dinosaurs eat grass?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Grasses are members of the Angiosperms (flowering plants), a very successful group and an important one to us humans as rice, oats, wheat, maize and barley are just some of the grasses that are cultivated by us for food.  It had been thought that the first flowering plants evolved early in the Cretaceous, but recent research has suggested that the first Angiosperms may have evolved much earlier, sometime in the Triassic possibly.

To read an article on the potential for Triassic flowers: Saying It With Flowers 100 million years Earlier than Expected

The grasses themselves (Gramineae), the true-grasses, were once thought to have evolved during the Cenozoic, with the first fossil evidence being dated to around 55 million years ago, a good ten million years or so before the extinction of the Dinosauria.  However, there is some fossil evidence to suggest that grasses were present at the very end of the Age of Dinosaurs, around 66 million years ago, so these may well have been grazed by herbivorous dinosaurs.  As for the other plants mentioned in the brief article, it is worth remembering that ferns would have represented a considerable portion of the biomass of most terrestrial Mesozoic environments but the inclusion of palm trees in the list is intriguing.  Palms may superficially resemble more ancient flora such as cycads, but they are not closely related.  In fact, palm trees are a relatively recent addition to the Angiosperm group.  The first fossils of palm-like plants occur in Late Cretaceous strata dating deposited around 80 million years ago.  By some 70 million years ago, during the Maastrichtian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous and as the Age of Dinosaurs came to a close, it seems like a number of palm genera had evolved (members of the Arecaceae family).

In the 15 million years or so after the end of the Mesozoic Era, the planet experienced a period of prolonged global warming.  Extensive rain forests covered much of the Earth’s land masses.  There were jungle habitats as far north as Canada and southern Scandinavia.  Palms and a number of other types of Angiosperms seem to have flourished in the hot-house atmosphere and a very wide range of palms evolved.  The grasses themselves really came into their own from about when global temperatures began to fall and the tropical forests began to be replaced by plants more suited to drier, colder environments.

25 01, 2014

Did Dinosaurs Eat Grass?

By | January 25th, 2014|Key Stage 1/2|Comments Off on Did Dinosaurs Eat Grass?

Did Dinosaurs Eat Grass?

One of the questions that can quite easily trip up a member of the teaching team when it comes to looking at the food chains and food webs that existed during the time of the dinosaurs.  A question that comes up a lot when our teaching experts are quizzed by other professionals preparing schemes of work aimed at the Key Stage 1 or 2 cohort is the question did dinosaurs eat grass?

Typically One of the Questions we Get Asked

One of the many questions asked by teachers.

One of the many questions asked by teachers.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Grasses are a highly successful group of  Angiosperms (flowering plants).  Grasses not only include grass found in fields and that grazed by cattle and other herbivores, but rice, wheat, oats, barley and maize are also members of the grass family (Poaceae) otherwise sometimes called the Gramineae.  Nearly three quarters of all commercial crops grown in the world are members of the grass family.  These plants are extremely important to our own species, but did dinosaurs feed on grass too?

It had been thought that the first flowering plants evolved early in the Cretaceous period, around 120 million years ago, but recent research has suggested that the first Angiosperms may have evolved much earlier, sometime in the Triassic possibly.

To read an article that provides more information: Saying it With Flowers 100 Million Years Earlier Than Expected

The true-grasses (Poaceae) were once thought to have evolved during the Cenozoic Era, with the first fossils of grasses dating to around 55-56 million years ago (Palaeogene Period).  This means that conventional thinking suggested that the dinosaurs had become extinct some ten million years or so before the first grasses evolved.  Over the last thirty million years, grass has come to dominate large parts of the world, especially as drier climates led to deforestation.

Recently, some fossil evidence has come to light that suggests that at least some types of grass were present during the Cretaceous Period, a time when dinosaurs roamed.  These grasses could well have been eaten by plant-eating dinosaurs.  Analysis of micro-fossils including pollen supports the theory that grasses probably evolved during the Age of Dinosaurs.

Lesson Plan Ideas

  • Get the children to look at pictures of dinosaurs in books, can they identify in general terms what sort of plants are in the pictures?
  • Where in the dinosaur books do flowering plants first appear? – Hint (Cretaceous Period)
  • Compare the landscape at the time of the dinosaurs with pictures of modern landscapes – what is similar?  What is different?
  • Can the children produce a timeline showing when different animals and plants evolved?
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