London: Scientists have worked out how giant Diplodocus, a dinosaur weighing 12 tonnes and 170 feet long, stripped entire treetops and branches of their leaves by clamping on them with giant jaws.
The eating habits of the Diplodocus, the longest creature to roam the earth, has never been properly understood since its discovery 130 years ago. One school of thought was that it would strip bark from trees by closing its jaws around the trunk.
A second was it would grip branches and strip them of their foliage. But now researchers from the University of Bristol, Natural History Museum of London, the University of Missouri and Ohio University say a 3D model of the dinosaur's skull has provided the answer.
Casey Holliday, professor at Missouri, said: "Since Diplodocus was such a huge animal, its eating habits and behaviour have always been a question in the paleontology community. With the 3D model of the skull, we were able to simulate three eating scenarios using a computer-based analysis to determine the stresses that the skull would experience in each situation."
The team created the 3D model of the skull, which measured 2.5 feet and sat at the top of a 20 foot neck. They then measured the stresses put upon it by three different eating behaviours - normal biting, branch stripping and bark stripping, the Daily Mail reported.
Holliday, professor, said: "Originally, some scientists in the early 1900s thought that Diplodocus would strip bark off of trees using its jaws to close down on the bark. However, we found that this process places a lot of stress and strain on the dinosaur's teeth and skull, which could result in bone damage or breaking of teeth."
"The model and the scans showed that branch stripping, which is when the dinosaur would place its mouth on a branch and pull all the leaves off the branch, placed little to or no stress on the teeth and skull," said Holliday.
Mark Young, of the University of Bristol, said: "Sauropod dinosaurs, like Diplodocus, were so weird and different from living animals that there is no animal we can compare them with. This makes understanding their feeding ecology very difficult. That's why biomechanically modelling is so important to our understanding of long-extinct animals."