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Were the herbivorous necked dinosaurs ruminant like cows?

by Ace Damon

Kaio Moreira / Superinteressante

No. But they could have been, because the configuration of the digestive system of cows is one of several ways to solve a problem faced by every herbivore (prehistoric or current): extracting carbohydrate and protein from leaves with a high cellulose content, which is a polysaccharide difficult to digest.

To take care of cellulose, huge colonies of bacteria enter the scene. They are the ones that truly feed on the grass. Ruminants, in turn, feed on the by-products of the metabolism of these bacteria, in exchange for the real estate favor of sheltering them in a vast stomach called rumen (the first of the four).

This digestion with the aid of microorganisms takes time. Every herbivorous organism needs a long, spacious compartment to hold its bacteria. Ruminants have evolved the four stomach system to meet this demand. But other big herbivores, like elephants, do the so-called hindgut fermentation: they have smaller stomachs, and they keep their bacteria in the intestine.

This is the case for the necked sauropod dinosaurs.

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“The size of the intestine is evident in the reconstitutions of sauropods: that round belly is a fermentation chamber,” says Carole Gee, a paleontologist at the University of Bonn. The leaves – which they swallowed without chewing to eat faster and support their more than 20,000 kg – spent up to four days with the bacteria.

Question from @ danmagon7, via Instagram

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