An Evolutionary Cascade Model for Sauropod Dinosaur Gigantism - Overview, Update and Tests

  • P. Martin Sander mail

    Affiliation: Steinmann Institute of Geology, Mineralogy and Paleontology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany

  • Published: October 30, 2013
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078573
  • Published in PLOS ONE

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Sauropods and gut bacteria

Posted by Lvanlaer on 16 Jan 2014 at 12:11 GMT

The size of sauropod guts seems to make it self-evident that they evolved in lockstep with a highly specialized population of gut bacteria.

Scientists are attaining major new insights into the interactive role that gut bacteria play in evolution on an almost daily basis; yet little attention seems to have been paid to this question in the abstracts posted on the subject here.

While we can't look back (as far as we can tell, but there are always surprises in science!) at exactly what bacteria populated dinosaur guts, their descendants are most certainly present in bird guts; and I rather suspect we'll find that gut bacteria ultimately have common traits across a wide range of mammalian and avian species. Guts, after all, are guts; and given the consistent nature of the environment, the nutritional needs of various creatures, etc, we can expect to see a wide-ranging set of strongly convergent properties in populations.

I'd further propose that those properties have probably been strongly conserved over time, perhaps for many millions of years. Plants, after all, were plants 100 million years ago in the same way that they are plants today.

Extrapolation backwards into the past may give us insights on how and why dinosaurs developed the huge guts they sported; sauropods were, in essence, giant ambulatory fermentation chambers, and the reason for their size has to be closely tied to this obvious function. I'd suggest the team ask more questions about this.

No competing interests declared.