Evol Ecol Res 4: 1093-1095 (2002)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Why were dinosaurs so large? A food quality hypothesis

J.J. Midgley,1* G. Midgley2 and W.J. Bond1

1Department of Botany, University of Cape Town, P. Bag, Rondebosch 7701 and 2National Botanical Institute, Kirstenbosch, P. Bag X7, Claremont 7735, South Africa

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: midgleyj@botzoo.uct.ac.za


Some dinosaurs, notably the sauropods, were the largest of all land animals, present or past. There is no generally agreed reason for this gigantism. We question the recent suggestion that this was due to high productivity, from high CO2 concentrations, at the time of the dinosaurs. Instead, we suggest the reason for this large size was because typical Jurassic/Triassic plants, such as cycads and conifers, were of inherently low food quality (low nitrogen concentration). High CO2 at the time of the dinosaurs would have resulted in an even lower food quality. Present-day megaherbivores are associated with relatively low-quality food-plants and we suggest this applied to sauropods.

Keywords: carbon dioxide, nutrients, sauropods.

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