Meet the NIBBLING Triassic herbivore! Ostrich-like creature that lived in North America 205 million years ago used its jaws to snip off and nibble plants, new analysis suggests

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  • ‘Aphigia’ was discovered in New Mexico in the 1940s, but was only described in 2006
  • The remains were badly preserved, making it difficult to reconstruct.
  • Based on its ostrich-like characteristics, it is believed that Aphigia eats by pecking.
  • But experts led by the University of Birmingham took a CT scan of the fossil specimen
  • Their analysis revealed that the pecking may have actually shattered Aphigia’s skull.

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An ostrich-like, herbivorous creature called Aphigia, which lived in North America about 205 million years ago, was used to chop and gnaw plant leaves, a study found.

This is fundamentally different from previous research, which indicated that aphigia are fed by pecking at the ground like an ostrich.

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However, a recent analysis of the creature’s skull by experts from the University of Birmingham has shown that if Aphigia’s skull had been pecked and eaten, it would have disintegrated.

Instead, the reptile probably nibbles on soft plant matter such as young shoots and ferns, using its beak like a pair of gardening shears to snatch up the tasty morsel.

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The findings, the team said, show that the behavior of herbivores during the Triassic period (252-201 million years ago) was much more diverse than previously thought.

An ostrich-like, herbivorous creature that lived in North America about 205 million years ago used its jaws to bite and gnaw on plant leaves, a study finds

An ostrich-like, herbivorous creature that lived in North America about 205 million years ago used its jaws to bite and gnaw on plant leaves, a study finds

In their new study, paleontologist Jordan Bestwick of the University of Birmingham and his colleagues took computed tomography (CT) scans to better reconstruct Aphigia's skull.  Image: Skull of Aphigia, reconstructed.  Figures (a) - (c) show different views of the cranium, (d) and (e) lower jaw

In their new study, paleontologist Jordan Bestwick of the University of Birmingham and his colleagues took computed tomography (CT) scans to better reconstruct Aphigia’s skull. Image: Skull of Aphigia, reconstructed. Figures (a) – (c) show different views of the cranium, (d) and (e) lower jaw

EFFIGIA OKEEFFAEA STATISTICS

type: archosauri

used to live: about 205 million years ago

Area: Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

searched for: 1947-1948

Length: 6.6 feet (2 meters)

Height, 3.3 feet (1 meter)

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Aphigia, which was about the size of a modern gazelle, was first discovered in the 1940s at Ghost Ranch Quarry in New Mexico, but was only formally described in the scientific literature in 2006.

Unfortunately, the creature’s remains were poorly preserved, in particular the skull was quite badly deformed, making accurate reconstructions difficult to achieve.

Nevertheless, paleontologists were able to determine that Aphigia belonged to a group of reptiles known as archosaurs, which flourished in the Triassic but are today represented only by birds and crocodiles.

Despite being more closely related to crocodilians, it was the more bird-like attributes of Aphigia—including a lighter frame—that led researchers to originally assume that archosaurs formed themselves by pecking plant material from the ground. fed to

In their new study, paleontologist Jordan Bestwick of the University of Birmingham and his colleagues took computed tomography (CT) scans to better reconstruct Aphigia’s skull.

The scans showed that the archosaurs had a more rounded, bulbous brain cavity than previously thought, as well as curved upper and lower jaws.

Unlike an ostrich, aphigia has a less rounded, more concave bill, resulting in a pair of jaws that open and close in the same way as a pair of scissors.

Based on their findings, the researchers built a model to simulate the effects of various forces acting on the creature’s skull.

The team found that the forces involved in pecking the ground would have shattered Aphigia’s skull.

Instead, they concluded, it is much more likely that the animal used its shear-like jaws to gnaw on small pieces of soft plants before gnawing on them.

In their new study, paleontologist Jordan Bestwick of the University of Birmingham and his colleagues took computed tomography (CT) scans to better reconstruct Aphigia's skull.
Scans showed that archosaurs had a more rounded, bulbous brain cavity than previously thought, as well as curved upper and lower jaws
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Based on their findings, the researchers built a model to simulate the effects of various forces acting on the creature’s skulls, including those that would be generated through the (left) beak on the ground, which they found. Probably would have shattered Aphigia’s skull. Instead, they concluded, it is much more likely that the animal used its shear-like jaws to gnaw on smaller pieces of soft plants before biting them—producing less force (right).

Aphigia, which was about the size of a modern gazelle, was first discovered in the 1940s at Ghost Ranch Quarry in New Mexico, but was only formally described in the scientific literature in 2006.  Image: Relative size of a human (left) and aphigia (right)

Aphigia, which was about the size of a modern gazelle, was first discovered in the 1940s at Ghost Ranch Quarry in New Mexico, but was only formally described in the scientific literature in 2006. Image: Relative size of a human (left) and aphigia (right)

Dr Bestwick said, “The herbivores we recognize already in the Triassic period were fed either by digging up roots, as in pig-like aetosaurs, or reaching leaves in treetops, like long-necked sauropods.” “

‘These two-legged browsers with a weak bite are unique to this period and show a diversity previously unrecognized among herbivores of the period.’

The full findings of the study were published in the journal physical record,

Aphigia, which was about the size of a modern gazelle, was first discovered in the 1940s at Ghost Ranch Quarry in New Mexico, but was only formally described in the scientific literature in 2006.

Aphigia, which was about the size of a modern gazelle, was first discovered in the 1940s at Ghost Ranch Quarry in New Mexico, but was only formally described in the scientific literature in 2006.

Computed tomography (CT) scan interpretation

Computed tomography (CT) scans use X-ray beams to produce cross-sectional images of an object.

They are used in medical settings to see inside the human body, as well as in scientific research to examine artifacts without damaging them.

While the imaging process is taking place, the X-ray tube continuously emits an X-ray beam and rotates in a 360-degree circle in a device called a gantry.

While this is happening, the patient or object is placed on a special CT imaging table that allows the X-ray beam to pass through.

The shape of an X-ray beam is similar to a hand-held fan and is often described as a fan beam.

Within this circular gantry are located a number of digital detectors that continuously identify the energy of the X-ray photons that exit the object or person.

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