Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bonn Scientists Simulate Dinosaur Digestion in the Lab

06.02.2008
Scientists from the University of Bonn are researching which plants giant dinosaurs could have lived off more than 100 million years ago. They want to find out how the dinosaurs were able to become as large as they did. In actual fact such gigantic animals should not have existed. The results of the research have now been published in the journal 'Proceedings of the Royal Society B'.

Take 200 milligrammes of dried and ground equisetum, ten millilitres of digestive juice from sheep's rumen, a few minerals, carbonate and water. Fill a big glass syringe with the mix, clamp this into a revolving drum and put the whole thing into an incubator, where the brew can rotate slowly. In this way you obtain the artificial 'dinosaur rumen'.

With this apparatus (also used as a ‘Menke gas production technique’ in assessing food for cows) Dr. Jürgen Hummel from the Bonn Institute of Animal Sciences (Bonner Institut für Tierwissenschaften) is investigating which plants giant dinosaurs could have lived off more than 100 million years ago, since this is one of the pieces which are still missing in the puzzle involving the largest land animals that ever walked the earth. The largest of these 'sauropod dinosaurs' with their 70 to 100 tonnes had a mass of ten full grown elephants or more than 1000 average Germans.

Larger than permitted

... more about:
»Ground »bacteria »equisetum »syringe

How the dinosaurs could ever attain this size is something which scientists from Germany and Switzerland are investigating. The Bonn palaeontologist, Professor Martin Sander, the coordinator of the research group 'Biology of the Sauropod Dinosaurs: The Evolution of Gigantism', says, 'There is a law to which most animals living today conform. The larger an animal, the smaller the density of the population, i.e. the fewer animals of the same species there are per square kilometre.' The larger an animal is, the larger the amount of food it has to have in order to survive. Therefore a specific area can only feed a certain maximum number of animals.

At the same time there is a lower limit to the density of population. If this is undercut, the species dies out: 'In this case diseases can rapidly wipe out the whole stock. Moreover, finding a mate becomes difficult,' Martin Sander explains. An animal like the 100-tonne argentinosaurus should have normally not had this 'minimum population density’, actually it should not have been able to exist. But there are hypotheses for this apparent paradox: for example the giant dinosaurs presumably had a metabolism that was lower than that of mammals. In this context it is unclear how nutritious the plants were that formed their diet.

This question is being investigated by Dr. Jürgen Hummel in conjunction with Dr. Marcus Clauss from the University of Zurich. 'We assume that the herbivorous dinosaurs must have had a kind of fermenter, similar to the rumen in cows today.' Almost all existing herbivores digest their food by using bacteria in this way. The panda is the exception. Because the panda is not like this its digestion is inefficient. It stuffs bamboo leaves into its mouth all day long, in order to meet its energy needs, despite the fact that it does not move about much, thereby saving energy.

Jürgen Hummel transforms glass syringes into simple fermenters, which he fills with bacteria from the sheep's rumen. 'These micro-organisms are very old from an evolutionary point of view; we can therefore assume that they also existed in the past,' he explains. To the mix of bacteria he adds dried and ground food plants: grass, foliage or herbs which still form part of animals’ diet, and for comparison equisetum, Norfolk Island pine or ginkgo leaves, i.e. parts of plants which have been growing for more than 200 million years on earth. The gas formed during the fermentation process presses the plunger out of the syringes. Jürgen Hummel can therefore read the success of the fermentation process directly off their scales. This is measured according to a simple rule: the more gas is produced, the 'higher the quality' of the food.

Equisetum is bad for the teeth

These ‘old’ plants stand their ground surprisingly well compared to today's flora. 'The difference is not as great as might be expected,' Jürgen Hummel emphasises. The bacteria digest ginkgo even better than foliage, but they seem to prefer equisetum most. With it gas production is even higher than with some grasses. Nevertheless, equisetum figures in the diet of comparatively few animals. The reason is that in addition to the toxins present in many modern species it wears down animals’ teeth too much. 'Equisetum contains a lot of silicates,' Jürgen Hummel says. 'It acts like sand paper.'

However, many dinosaurs did not have any molars at all. They just pulled up their food and gulped it down. The mechanical break-up may have been carried out by a ‘gastric mill’. Similar to today's birds, dinosaurs may have swallowed stones with which they ground the food to a paste with their muscular stomach. However, there are no clear indications of this. Only recently the Bonn palaeontologist Dr. Oliver Wings doubted that dinosaurs had bezoar stones, at least this assumption could not be verified from fossil findings.

Dr. Jürgen Hummel | alfa
Further information:
http://www.itw.uni-bonn.de

Further reports about: Ground bacteria equisetum syringe

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>