Dinosaurs Dined on Grass

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Science  18 Nov 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5751, pp. 1126-1128
DOI: 10.1126/science.1121020

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Grasses are among the most ecologically dominant flowering plants. Did the most dominant herbivores of the Mesozoic--the dinosaurs--evolve together with grasses? This question has been hard to answer, owing to the poor fossil record. In their Perspective, Piperno and Sues discuss results reported in the same issue by Prasad et al. in which phytoliths, the small silicate structures synthesized by many plants, found in coprolites (fossilized dinosaur dung) have been examined and compared. The work is the first evidence that dinosaurs ate grass and that the large grass family, known as Poaceae, had originated and diversified during the Cretaceous era. The results will have important implications for studies of evolutionary interactions between ancient plants and herbivores.