Above: Edmontosaurus skull, note teeth in back of jaw. Photo: Ballista / Wikipedia, licensed
Sounds very interesting and a great step to resolving the ecologies of this well-known dinosaur group... or is it? A major paper that came out in the December issue of JVP argued convincingly that dinosaur skulls such as this didn't actually have any kinesis at all! As David Marjanovic summed up on the DML, the argument there was that people who have spent their careers studying modern reptiles and their kinetic skulls have assumed that dinosaurs followed the same pattern, and have grasped at straws to find evidence of kinesis where it doesn't actually exist (that is, that dinosaurs lost cranial kinesis at some point in their evolution from other reptiles, or never had it, meaning it's a novel feature of lizards and snakes). If that's the case, than the underlying assumption of this new hadrosaur paper is wrong. Another blow against their conclusions, as noted in the article above, is that reports of fossil stomach contents from hadrosaur mummies show food that had been sheared, not chewed. Gut contents also suggest a diet predominantly of conifers (pine trees etc.), while the tooth wear study suggests food was cropped close to the ground and may have been rich in silica, suggesting a diet primarily of ferns and horsetails.
Did hadrosaurs chew? A recently named lambeosaur called Angulomastacator ("angle chewer") would have us think so. So would a new paper by Williams et al. on an intensive study of hadrosaur tooth wear. As this article reports, the direction of hundreds of scratches were mapped in 3D to suss out what type of chewing method was used by hadrosaurs. The authors found that they employed an extinct form of chewing unlike any living animals, in which the natural kinesis (joints between the skull bones found in modern reptiles) forced the bones of the upper jaw outward, causing the tooth batteries to slide against each other in a sideways motion.
Above: Edmontosaurus tooth battery, which was studied for wear patterns. Photo: Vince Williams / Univ. of Leicester
So then, how to explain the unique wear patterns on hadrosaur teeth? How can we rectify the conflicting evidence regarding diet? Surely another salvo in this controversy will appear in print in a few months.