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1.  Some sauropods raised their necks—evidence for high browsing in Euhelopus zdanskyi 
Biology Letters  2010;6(6):823-825.
A very long neck that is apparently suitable for feeding at great heights is a characteristic feature of most sauropod dinosaurs. Yet, it remains controversial whether any sauropods actually raised their necks high. Recently, strong physiological arguments have been put forward against the idea of high-browsing sauropods, because of the very high blood pressure that appears to be inevitable when the head is located several metres above the heart. For the sauropod Euhelopus zdanskyi, however, biomechanical evidence clearly indicates high browsing. Energy expenditure owing to high browsing is compared with energy costs for walking a distance. It is demonstrated for Euhelopus as well as for the much larger Brachiosaurus that despite an increase in the metabolic rate, high browsing was worthwhile for a sauropod if resources were far apart.
PMCID: PMC3001369  PMID: 20519198
sauropod; dinosaur; neck; feeding; energy expenditures
2.  Biomechanical Reconstructions and Selective Advantages of Neck Poses and Feeding Strategies of Sauropods with the Example of Mamenchisaurus youngi 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e71172.
A very long neck is a characteristic feature of most sauropod dinosaurs. In the genus Mamenchisaurus, neck length is extreme, greater than 40 percent of total body length. However, the posture, utilization, and selective advantage of very long necks in sauropods are still controversial. An excellently preserved skeleton of Mamenchisaurus youngi, including a complete neck, provides an opportunity for a comprehensive biomechanical analysis of neck posture and mobility. The biomechanical evidence indicates that Mamenchisaurus youngi had a nearly straight, near horizontal neck posture and browsed at low or medium heights. The results differ from the findings for some other sauropod species, like Euhelopus, Diplodocus, and Giraffatitan (Brachiosaurus) that had been analyzed in previous studies with similar methods. The selective advantage of extreme neck length in sauropods is likely advantageous for different feeding strategies.
PMCID: PMC3812961  PMID: 24204557
3.  Raising the sauropod neck: it costs more to get less 
Biology Letters  2009;5(3):317-319.
The long necks of gigantic sauropod dinosaurs are commonly assumed to have been used for high browsing to obtain enough food. However, this analysis questions whether such a posture was reasonable from the standpoint of energetics. The energy cost of circulating the blood can be estimated accurately from two physiological axioms that relate metabolic rate, blood flow rate and arterial blood pressure: (i) metabolic rate is proportional to blood flow rate and (ii) cardiac work rate is proportional to the product of blood flow rate and blood pressure. The analysis shows that it would have required the animal to expend approximately half of its energy intake just to circulate the blood, primarily because a vertical neck would have required a high systemic arterial blood pressure. It is therefore energetically more feasible to have used a more or less horizontal neck to enable wide browsing while keeping blood pressure low.
PMCID: PMC2679936  PMID: 19364714
dinosaur; sauropod; blood pressure; circulation; neck; feeding height
4.  Inter-Vertebral Flexibility of the Ostrich Neck: Implications for Estimating Sauropod Neck Flexibility 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72187.
The flexibility and posture of the neck in sauropod dinosaurs has long been contentious. Improved constraints on sauropod neck function will have major implications for what we know of their foraging strategies, ecology and overall biology. Several hypotheses have been proposed, based primarily on osteological data, suggesting different degrees of neck flexibility. This study attempts to assess the effects of reconstructed soft tissues on sauropod neck flexibility through systematic removal of muscle groups and measures of flexibility of the neck in a living analogue, the ostrich (Struthio camelus). The possible effect of cartilage on flexibility is also examined, as this was previously overlooked in osteological estimates of sauropod neck function. These comparisons show that soft tissues are likely to have limited the flexibility of the neck beyond the limits suggested by osteology alone. In addition, the inferred presence of cartilage, and varying the inter-vertebral spacing within the synovial capsule, also affect neck flexibility. One hypothesis proposed that flexibility is constrained by requiring a minimum overlap between successive zygapophyses equivalent to 50% of zygapophyseal articular surface length (ONP50). This assumption is tested by comparing the maximum flexibility of the articulated cervical column in ONP50 and the flexibility of the complete neck with all tissues intact. It is found that this model does not adequately convey the pattern of flexibility in the ostrich neck, suggesting that the ONP50 model may not be useful in determining neck function if considered in isolation from myological and other soft tissue data.
PMCID: PMC3743800  PMID: 23967284
5.  Hearts, neck posture and metabolic intensity of sauropod dinosaurs. 
Hypothesized upright neck postures in sauropod dinosaurs require systemic arterial blood pressures reaching 700 mmHg at the heart. Recent data on ventricular wall stress indicate that their left ventricles would have weighed 15 times those of similarly sized whales. Such dimensionally, energetically and mechanically disadvantageous ventricles were highly unlikely in an endothermic sauropod. Accessory hearts or a siphon mechanism, with sub-atmospheric blood pressures in the head, were also not feasible. If the blood flow requirements of sauropods were typical of ectotherms, the left-ventricular blood volume and mass would have been smaller; nevertheless, the heart would have suffered the serious mechanical disadvantage of thick walls. It is doubtful that any large sauropod could have raised its neck vertically and endured high arterial blood pressure, and it certainly could not if it had high metabolic rates characteristic of endotherms.
PMCID: PMC1690760  PMID: 11052540
6.  Look before you leap: is risk of injury a foraging cost? 
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology  2009;63(12):1821-1827.
Theory states that an optimal forager should exploit a patch so long as its harvest rate of resources from the patch exceeds its energetic, predation, and missed opportunity costs for foraging. However, for many foragers, predation is not the only source of danger they face while foraging. Foragers also face the risk of injuring themselves. To test whether risk of injury gives rise to a foraging cost, we offered red foxes pairs of depletable resource patches in which they experienced diminishing returns. The resource patches were identical in all respects, save for the risk of injury. In response, the foxes exploited the safe patches more intensively. They foraged for a longer time and also removed more food (i.e., had lower giving up densities) in the safe patches compared to the risky patches. Although they never sustained injury, video footage revealed that the foxes used greater care while foraging from the risky patches and removed food at a slower rate. Furthermore, an increase in their hunger state led foxes to allocate more time to foraging from the risky patches, thereby exposing themselves to higher risks. Our results suggest that foxes treat risk of injury as a foraging cost and use time allocation and daring—the willingness to risk injury—as tools for managing their risk of injury while foraging. This is the first study, to our knowledge, which explicitly tests and shows that risk of injury is indeed a foraging cost. While nearly all foragers may face an injury cost of foraging, we suggest that this cost will be largest and most important for predators.
PMCID: PMC2746896  PMID: 19779627
Foraging theory; Optimal patch use; Predator–prey interactions; Red foxes; Daring
7.  A new long-necked ‘sauropod-mimic’ stegosaur and the evolution of the plated dinosaurs 
Stegosaurian dinosaurs have a quadrupedal stance, short forelimbs, short necks, and are generally considered to be low browsers. A new stegosaur, Miragaia longicollum gen. et sp. nov., from the Late Jurassic of Portugal, has a neck comprising at least 17 cervical vertebrae. This is eight additional cervical vertebrae when compared with the ancestral condition seen in basal ornithischians such as Scutellosaurus. Miragaia has a higher cervical count than most of the iconically long-necked sauropod dinosaurs. Long neck length has been achieved by ‘cervicalization’ of anterior dorsal vertebrae and probable lengthening of centra. All these anatomical features are evolutionarily convergent with those exhibited in the necks of sauropod dinosaurs. Miragaia longicollum is based upon a partial articulated skeleton, and includes the only known cranial remains from any European stegosaur. A well-resolved phylogeny supports a new clade that unites Miragaia and Dacentrurus as the sister group to Stegosaurus; this new topology challenges the common view of Dacentrurus as a basal stegosaur.
PMCID: PMC2674496  PMID: 19324778
Stegosaurian dinosaurs; Miragaia longicollum; Dacentrurus; neck elongation; niche partitioning; sexual selection
8.  Why sauropods had long necks; and why giraffes have short necks 
PeerJ  2013;1:e36.
The necks of the sauropod dinosaurs reached 15 m in length: six times longer than that of the world record giraffe and five times longer than those of all other terrestrial animals. Several anatomical features enabled this extreme elongation, including: absolutely large body size and quadrupedal stance providing a stable platform for a long neck; a small, light head that did not orally process food; cervical vertebrae that were both numerous and individually elongate; an efficient air-sac-based respiratory system; and distinctive cervical architecture. Relevant features of sauropod cervical vertebrae include: pneumatic chambers that enabled the bone to be positioned in a mechanically efficient way within the envelope; and muscular attachments of varying importance to the neural spines, epipophyses and cervical ribs. Other long-necked tetrapods lacked important features of sauropods, preventing the evolution of longer necks: for example, giraffes have relatively small torsos and large, heavy heads, share the usual mammalian constraint of only seven cervical vertebrae, and lack an air-sac system and pneumatic bones. Among non-sauropods, their saurischian relatives the theropod dinosaurs seem to have been best placed to evolve long necks, and indeed their necks probably surpassed those of giraffes. But 150 million years of evolution did not suffice for them to exceed a relatively modest 2.5 m.
PMCID: PMC3628838  PMID: 23638372
Sauropod; Giraffe; Dinosaur; Evolution; Cervical vertebra; Neck
9.  Evolution of foraging behaviour in response to chronic malnutrition in Drosophila melanogaster 
Chronic exposure to food of low quality may exert conflicting selection pressures on foraging behaviour. On the one hand, more active search behaviour may allow the animal to find patches with slightly better, or more, food; on the other hand, such active foraging is energetically costly, and thus may be opposed by selection for energetic efficiency. Here, we test these alternative hypotheses in Drosophila larvae. We show that populations which experimentally evolved improved tolerance to larval chronic malnutrition have shorter foraging path length than unselected control populations. A behavioural polymorphism in foraging path length (the rover–sitter polymorphism) exists in nature and is attributed to the foraging locus (for). We show that a sitter strain (fors2) survives better on the poor food than the rover strain (forR), confirming that the sitter foraging strategy is advantageous under malnutrition. Larvae of the selected and control populations did not differ in global for expression. However, a quantitative complementation test suggests that the for locus may have contributed to the adaptation to poor food in one of the selected populations, either through a change in for allele frequencies, or by interacting epistatically with alleles at other loci. Irrespective of its genetic basis, our results provide two independent lines of evidence that sitter-like foraging behaviour is favoured under chronic larval malnutrition.
PMCID: PMC3396918  PMID: 22696523
competition; experimental evolution; feeding; nutritional stress; PKG; rover–sitter
10.  The Articulation of Sauropod Necks: Methodology and Mythology 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78572.
Sauropods are often imagined to have held their heads high atop necks that ascended in a sweeping curve that was formed either intrinsically because of the shape of their vertebrae, or behaviorally by lifting the head, or both. Their necks are also popularly depicted in life with poses suggesting avian flexibility. The grounds for such interpretations are examined in terms of vertebral osteology, inferences about missing soft tissues, intervertebral flexibility, and behavior. Osteologically, the pronounced opisthocoely and conformal central and zygapophyseal articular surfaces strongly constrain the reconstruction of the cervical vertebral column. The sauropod cervico-dorsal vertebral column is essentially straight, in contrast to the curvature exhibited in those extant vertebrates that naturally hold their heads above rising necks. Regarding flexibility, extant vertebrates with homologous articular geometries preserve a degree of zygapophyseal overlap at the limits of deflection, a constraint that is further restricted by soft tissues. Sauropod necks, if similarly constrained, were capable of sweeping out large feeding surfaces, yet much less capable of retracting the head to explore the enclosed volume in an avian manner. Behaviorally, modern vertebrates generally assume characteristic neck postures which are close to the intrinsic curvature of the undeflected neck. With the exception of some vertebrates that can retract their heads to balance above their shoulders at rest (e.g., felids, lagomorphs, and some ratites), the undeflected neck generally predicts the default head height at rest and during locomotion.
PMCID: PMC3812995  PMID: 24205266
11.  Explaining the effects of floral density on flower visitor species composition 
The American naturalist  2013;181(3):10.1086/669157.
Floral density often influences the species composition of flower visitors. This variation in visitor species composition could have significant effects on pollination success and plant fitness but is poorly understood, especially in the many pollination guilds dominated by non-territorial species. This paper presents a foraging model that explores how flower visitors with diverse traits should distribute themselves across resource patches differing in floral density. The model predicts that species with low flower search speeds and low flower handling costs compared to competitors will usually dominate dense flower patches. In addition, amongst flower visitors that have lower energy expenditure rates while handling flowers than while traveling, species maximizing energetic efficiency are typically associated with dense flower patches whereas those maximizing net rate of energy intake are associated with sparse patches. The model is able to predict some key aspects of a previously-observed effect of floral density on species composition of flower visitors to the yellowflower tarweed (Holocarpha virgata). By providing insights into how flower visitors’ traits shape the effects of floral density on the species composition of flower visitors, this study makes an important step towards understanding how pollinator diversity influences relationships between plant density and plant fitness.
PMCID: PMC3825104  PMID: 23448884
Foraging behavior; optimal foraging theory; pollination; competition
12.  The Effect of Intervertebral Cartilage on Neutral Posture and Range of Motion in the Necks of Sauropod Dinosaurs 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78214.
The necks of sauropod dinosaurs were a key factor in their evolution. The habitual posture and range of motion of these necks has been controversial, and computer-aided studies have argued for an obligatory sub-horizontal pose. However, such studies are compromised by their failure to take into account the important role of intervertebral cartilage. This cartilage takes very different forms in different animals. Mammals and crocodilians have intervertebral discs, while birds have synovial joints in their necks. The form and thickness of cartilage varies significantly even among closely related taxa. We cannot yet tell whether the neck joints of sauropods more closely resembled those of birds or mammals. Inspection of CT scans showed cartilage:bone ratios of 4.5% for Sauroposeidon and about 20% and 15% for two juvenile Apatosaurus individuals. In extant animals, this ratio varied from 2.59% for the rhea to 24% for a juvenile giraffe. It is not yet possible to disentangle ontogenetic and taxonomic signals, but mammal cartilage is generally three times as thick as that of birds. Our most detailed work, on a turkey, yielded a cartilage:bone ratio of 4.56%. Articular cartilage also added 11% to the length of the turkey's zygapophyseal facets. Simple image manipulation suggests that incorporating 4.56% of neck cartilage into an intervertebral joint of a turkey raises neutral posture by 15°. If this were also true of sauropods, the true neutral pose of the neck would be much higher than has been depicted. An additional 11% of zygapophyseal facet length translates to 11% more range of motion at each joint. More precise quantitative results must await detailed modelling. In summary, including cartilage in our models of sauropod necks shows that they were longer, more elevated and more flexible than previously recognised.
PMCID: PMC3812996  PMID: 24205163
13.  First complete sauropod dinosaur skull from the Cretaceous of the Americas and the evolution of sauropod dentition 
Die Naturwissenschaften  2010;97(4):379-391.
Sauropod dinosaur bones are common in Mesozoic terrestrial sediments, but sauropod skulls are exceedingly rare—cranial materials are known for less than one third of sauropod genera and even fewer are known from complete skulls. Here we describe the first complete sauropod skull from the Cretaceous of the Americas, Abydosaurus mcintoshi, n. gen., n. sp., known from 104.46 ± 0.95 Ma (megannum) sediments from Dinosaur National Monument, USA. Abydosaurus shares close ancestry with Brachiosaurus, which appeared in the fossil record ca. 45 million years earlier and had substantially broader teeth. A survey of tooth shape in sauropodomorphs demonstrates that sauropods evolved broad crowns during the Early Jurassic but did not evolve narrow crowns until the Late Jurassic, when they occupied their greatest range of crown breadths. During the Cretaceous, brachiosaurids and other lineages independently underwent a marked diminution in tooth breadth, and before the latest Cretaceous broad-crowned sauropods were extinct on all continental landmasses. Differential survival and diversification of narrow-crowned sauropods in the Late Cretaceous appears to be a directed trend that was not correlated with changes in plant diversity or abundance, but may signal a shift towards elevated tooth replacement rates and high-wear dentition. Sauropods lacked many of the complex herbivorous adaptations present within contemporaneous ornithischian herbivores, such as beaks, cheeks, kinesis, and heterodonty. The spartan design of sauropod skulls may be related to their remarkably small size—sauropod skulls account for only 1/200th of total body volume compared to 1/30th body volume in ornithopod dinosaurs.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00114-010-0650-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2841758  PMID: 20179896
Dinosauria; Sauropoda; Cretaceous; North America; Herbivory; Tooth shape
14.  Torsion and Bending in the Neck and Tail of Sauropod Dinosaurs and the Function of Cervical Ribs: Insights from Functional Morphology and Biomechanics 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78574.
The long necks of sauropods have been subject to many studies regarding their posture and flexibility. Length of the neck varies among groups. Here, we investigate neck posture and morphology in several clades from a mechanical viewpoint. Emphasis is put on comparing sauropod necks and tails with structures in living archosaurs and mammals. Differences in the use made of necks and tails lead to clear-cut differences in the mechanical loads occurring in the same models. Ways of sustaining loads are identified by theoretical considerations. If the observed skeletal structures are suited to resist the estimated loading in a particular posture, this concordance is taken as an argument that this posture or movement was of importance during the life of the individual. Apart from the often-discussed bending in side view, we analyze the often overlooked torsion. Because torsional stresses in a homogenous element concentrate near the periphery, a cylindrical cross section gives greatest strength, and the direction of forces is oblique. In a vertebrate neck, during e.g. shaking the head and twisting the neck, oblique muscles, like the mm. scaleni, if activated unilaterally initiate movement, counterbalance the torsional moments and keep the joints between neck vertebrae in equilibrium. If activated bilaterally, these muscles keep the neck balanced in an energy-saving upright posture. The tendons of the mm. scaleni may have ossified as cervical ribs The long cervical ribs in brachiosaurids and mamenchisaurids seem to have limited flexibility, whereas the shorter cervical ribs in Diplodocidae allowed free movement. The tails of sauropods do not show pronounced adaptation to torsion, and seem to have been carried more or less in a horizontal, extended posture. In this respect, sauropod tails resemble the necks of herbivorous cursorial mammals. These analyses provide an improved understanding of neck use that will be extended to other sauropods in subsequent studies.
PMCID: PMC3812989  PMID: 24205268
15.  Does prey size matter? Novel observations of feeding in the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) allow a test of predator–prey size relationships 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):351-354.
Optimal foraging models predict that large predators should concentrate on large prey in order to maximize their net gain of energy intake. Here, we show that the largest species of sea turtle, Dermochelys coriacea, does not strictly adhere to this general pattern. Field observations combined with a theoretical model suggest that a 300 kg leatherback turtle would meet its energetic requirements by feeding for 3–4 h a day on 4 g jellyfish, but only if prey were aggregated in high-density patches. Therefore, prey abundance rather than prey size may, in some cases, be the overriding parameter for foraging leatherbacks. This is a classic example where the presence of small prey in the diet of a large marine predator may reflect profitable foraging decisions if the relatively low energy intake per small individual prey is offset by high encounter rates and minimal capture and handling costs. This study provides, to our knowledge, the first quantitative estimates of intake rate for this species.
PMCID: PMC3367729  PMID: 22090203
plankton; trophic-niche; allometry; food web; carnivores; filter feeders
16.  Structural Extremes in a Cretaceous Dinosaur 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(11):e1230.
Fossils of the Early Cretaceous dinosaur, Nigersaurus taqueti, document for the first time the cranial anatomy of a rebbachisaurid sauropod. Its extreme adaptations for herbivory at ground-level challenge current hypotheses regarding feeding function and feeding strategy among diplodocoids, the larger clade of sauropods that includes Nigersaurus. We used high resolution computed tomography, stereolithography, and standard molding and casting techniques to reassemble the extremely fragile skull. Computed tomography also allowed us to render the first endocast for a sauropod preserving portions of the olfactory bulbs, cerebrum and inner ear, the latter permitting us to establish habitual head posture. To elucidate evidence of tooth wear and tooth replacement rate, we used photographic-casting techniques and crown thin sections, respectively. To reconstruct its 9-meter postcranial skeleton, we combined and size-adjusted multiple partial skeletons. Finally, we used maximum parsimony algorithms on character data to obtain the best estimate of phylogenetic relationships among diplodocoid sauropods. Nigersaurus taqueti shows extreme adaptations for a dinosaurian herbivore including a skull of extremely light construction, tooth batteries located at the distal end of the jaws, tooth replacement as fast as one per month, an expanded muzzle that faces directly toward the ground, and hollow presacral vertebral centra with more air sac space than bone by volume. A cranial endocast provides the first reasonably complete view of a sauropod brain including its small olfactory bulbs and cerebrum. Skeletal and dental evidence suggests that Nigersaurus was a ground-level herbivore that gathered and sliced relatively soft vegetation, the culmination of a low-browsing feeding strategy first established among diplodocoids during the Jurassic.
PMCID: PMC2077925  PMID: 18030355
17.  Inferences of Diplodocoid (Sauropoda: Dinosauria) Feeding Behavior from Snout Shape and Microwear Analyses 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e18304.
As gigantic herbivores, sauropod dinosaurs were among the most important members of Mesozoic communities. Understanding their ecology is fundamental to developing a complete picture of Jurassic and Cretaceous food webs. One group of sauropods in particular, Diplodocoidea, has long been a source of debate with regard to what and how they ate. Because of their long lineage duration (Late Jurassic-Late Cretaceous) and cosmopolitan distribution, diplodocoids formed important parts of multiple ecosystems. Additionally, fortuitous preservation of a large proportion of cranial elements makes them an ideal clade in which to examine feeding behavior.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Hypotheses of various browsing behaviors (selective and nonselective browsing at ground-height, mid-height, or in the upper canopy) were examined using snout shape (square vs. round) and dental microwear. The square snouts, large proportion of pits, and fine subparallel scratches in Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Nigersaurus, and Rebbachisaurus suggest ground-height nonselective browsing; the narrow snouts of Dicraeosaurus, Suuwassea, and Tornieria and the coarse scratches and gouges on the teeth of Dicraeosaurus suggest mid-height selective browsing in those taxa. Comparison with outgroups (Camarasaurus and Brachiosaurus) reinforces the inferences of ground- and mid-height browsing and the existence of both non-selective and selective browsing behaviors in diplodocoids.
These results reaffirm previous work suggesting the presence of diverse feeding strategies in sauropods and provide solid evidence for two different feeding behaviors in Diplodocoidea. These feeding behaviors can subsequently be tied to paleoecology, such that non-selective, ground-height behaviors are restricted to open, savanna-type environments. Selective browsing behaviors are known from multiple sauropod clades and were practiced in multiple environments.
PMCID: PMC3071828  PMID: 21494685
18.  No gastric mill in sauropod dinosaurs: new evidence from analysis of gastrolith mass and function in ostriches 
Polished pebbles occasionally found within skeletons of giant herbivorous sauropod dinosaurs are very likely to be gastroliths (stomach stones). Here, we show that based on feeding experiments with ostriches and comparative data for relative gastrolith mass in birds, sauropod gastroliths do not represent the remains of an avian-style gastric mill. Feeding experiments with farm ostriches showed that bird gastroliths experience fast abrasion in the gizzard and do not develop a polish. Relative gastrolith mass in sauropods (gastrolith mass much less than 0.1% of body mass) is at least an order of magnitude less than that in ostriches and other herbivorous birds (gastrolith mass approximates 1% of body mass), also arguing against the presence of a gastric mill in sauropods. Sauropod dinosaurs possibly compensated for their limited oral processing and gastric trituration capabilities by greatly increasing food retention time in the digestive system. Gastrolith clusters of some derived theropod dinosaurs (oviraptorosaurs and ornithomimosaurs) compare well with those of birds, suggesting that the gastric mill evolved in the avian stem lineage.
PMCID: PMC2197205  PMID: 17254987
gizzard; digestion; sauropod dinosaurs; extant birds; gastroliths
19.  Patch choice as a function of procurement cost and encounter rate. 
The effects of patch encounter rate on patch choice and meal patterns were studied in rats foraging in a laboratory environment offering two patch types that were encountered sequentially and randomly. The cost of procuring access to one patch was greater than the other. Patches were either encountered equally often or the high-cost patch was encountered more frequently. As expected, rats exploited the low-cost patch on almost 100% of encounters and exploited the high-cost patch on a percentage of encounters that was inversely proportional to its cost. Meal size was the same at both patches. Surprisingly, when low-cost patches were rare, the rats did not increase their use of high-cost patches. This resulted in spending more time and energy searching for patches and a higher average cost per meal. The rats responded to this increased cost by reducing the frequency and increasing the size of meals at both patches and thereby limited total daily foraging cost and conserved total intake.
PMCID: PMC1284644  PMID: 9465410
20.  Sauropod Necks: Are They Really for Heat Loss? 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77108.
Three-dimensional digital models of 16 different sauropods were used to examine the scaling relationship between metabolism and surface areas of the whole body, the neck, and the tail in an attempt to see if the necks could have functioned as radiators for the elimination of excess body heat. The sauropod taxa sample ranged in body mass from a 639 kg juvenile Camarasaurus to a 25 t adult Brachiosaurus. Metabolism was assumed to be directly proportional to body mass raised to the ¾ power, and estimates of body mass accounted for the presence of lungs and systems of air sacs in the trunk and neck. Surface areas were determined by decomposing the model surfaces into triangles and their areas being computed by vector methods. It was found that total body surface area was almost isometric with body mass, and that it showed negative allometry when plotted against metabolic rate. In contrast, neck area showed positive allometry when plotted against metabolic rate. Tail area show negative allometry with respect to metabolic rate. The many uncertainties about the biology of sauropods, and the variety of environmental conditions that different species experienced during the groups 150 million years of existence, make it difficult to be absolutely certain about the function of the neck as a radiator. However, the functional combination of the allometric increase of neck area, the systems of air sacs in the neck and trunk, the active control of blood flow between the core and surface of the body, changing skin color, and strategic orientation of the neck with respect to wind, make it plausible that the neck could have functioned as a radiator to avoid over-heating.
PMCID: PMC3812985  PMID: 24204747
21.  In vitro digestibility of fern and gymnosperm foliage: implications for sauropod feeding ecology and diet selection 
Sauropod dinosaurs, the dominant herbivores throughout the Jurassic, challenge general rules of large vertebrate herbivory. With body weights surpassing those of any other megaherbivore, they relied almost exclusively on pre-angiosperm plants such as gymnosperms, ferns and fern allies as food sources, plant groups that are generally believed to be of very low nutritional quality. However, the nutritive value of these taxa is virtually unknown, despite their importance in the reconstruction of the ecology of Mesozoic herbivores. Using a feed evaluation test for extant herbivores, we show that the energy content of horsetails and of certain conifers and ferns is at a level comparable to extant browse. Based on our experimental results, plants such as Equisetum, Araucaria, Ginkgo and Angiopteris would have formed a major part of sauropod diets, while cycads, tree ferns and podocarp conifers would have been poor sources of energy. Energy-rich but slow-fermenting Araucaria, which was globally distributed in the Jurassic, was probably targeted by giant, high-browsing sauropods with their presumably very long ingesta retention times. Our data make possible a more realistic calculation of the daily food intake of an individual sauropod and improve our understanding of how large herbivorous dinosaurs could have flourished in pre-angiosperm ecosystems.
PMCID: PMC2600911  PMID: 18252667
herbivorous dinosaurs; Mesozoic food plants; herbivory; nutrition
22.  Histology shows that elongated neck ribs in sauropod dinosaurs are ossified tendons 
Biology Letters  2012;8(6):1032-1035.
The histology of cervical ribs of Sauropoda reveals a primary bone tissue, which largely consists of longitudinally oriented mineralized collagen fibres, essentially the same tissue as found in ossified tendons. The absence of regular periosteal bone and the dominance of longitudinal fibres contradict the ventral bracing hypothesis (VBH) postulated for sauropod necks. The VBH predicts histologically primary periosteal bone with fibres oriented perpendicular to the rib long axis, indicative of connective tissue between overlapping hyperelongated cervical ribs. The transformation of the cervical ribs into ossified tendons makes the neck more flexible and implies that tension forces acted mainly along the length of the neck. This is contrary to the VBH, which requires compressive forces along the neck. Tension forces would allow important neck muscles to shift back to the trunk region, making the neck much lighter.
PMCID: PMC3497149  PMID: 23034173
Sauropoda; histology; cervical ribs; ossified tendons; neck mechanics
23.  Mate-guarding constrains feeding activity but not energetic status of wild male long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) 
Mate-guarding is an important determinant of male reproductive success in a number of species. Little is known however about the constraints of this behaviour, e.g. the associated energetic costs. We investigated these costs in long-tailed macaques where alpha males mate guard females to a lesser extent than predicted by the priority of access model. The study was carried out during two mating periods on three wild groups living in the Gunung Leuser National Park, Indonesia. We combined behavioural observations on males’ locomotion and feeding activity, GPS records of distance travelled and non-invasive measurements of urinary C-peptide (UCP), a physiological indicator of male energetic status. Mate-guarding led to a decrease in feeding time and fruit consumption suggesting a reduced intake of energy. At the same time, vertical locomotion was reduced, which potentially saved energy. These findings, together with the fact that we did not find an effect of mate-guarding on UCP levels, suggest that energy intake and expenditure was balanced during mate-guarding in our study males. Mate-guarding thus seems to not be energetically costly under all circumstances. Given that in strictly seasonal rhesus macaques, high-ranking males lose physical condition over the mating period, we hypothesise that the energetic costs of mate-guarding vary inter-specifically depending on the degree of seasonality and that males of non-strictly seasonal species might be better adapted to maintain balanced energetic condition year-round. Finally, our results illustrate the importance of combining behavioural assessments of both energy intake and expenditure with physiological measures when investigating energetic costs of behavioural strategies.
PMCID: PMC3950606  PMID: 24659851
Primates; Sexual selection; Mating costs; Field endocrinology; Feeding behaviour; Urinary C-peptide
24.  Impact of Sauropod Dinosaurs on Lagoonal Substrates in the Broome Sandstone (Lower Cretaceous), Western Australia 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36208.
Existing knowledge of the tracks left by sauropod dinosaurs (loosely ‘brontosaurs’) is essentially two-dimensional, derived mainly from footprints exposed on bedding planes, but examples in the Broome Sandstone (Early Cretaceous) of Western Australia provide a complementary three-dimensional picture showing the extent to which walking sauropods could deform the ground beneath their feet. The patterns of deformation created by sauropods traversing thinly-stratified lagoonal deposits of the Broome Sandstone are unprecedented in their extent and structural complexity. The stacks of transmitted reliefs (underprints or ghost prints) beneath individual footfalls are nested into a hierarchy of deeper and more inclusive basins and troughs which eventually attain the size of minor tectonic features. Ultimately the sauropod track-makers deformed the substrate to such an extent that they remodelled the topography of the landscape they inhabited. Such patterns of substrate deformation are revealed by investigating fragmentary and eroded footprints, not by the conventional search for pristine footprints on intact bedding planes. For that reason it is not known whether similar patterns of substrate deformation might occur at sauropod track-sites elsewhere in the world.
PMCID: PMC3360740  PMID: 22662116
25.  Experimental manipulation of fertility reveals potential lactation costs in a free-ranging marsupial 
Biology Letters  2011;7(6):859-862.
Lactation is the most energetically expensive component of reproduction in mammals. Theory predicts that reproducing females will adjust their behaviour to compensate for increased nutritional demands. However, experimental tests are required, since comparisons of the behaviour of naturally reproducing and non-reproducing females cannot distinguish between true costs of reproduction, individual differences or seasonal variation. We experimentally manipulated reproduction in free-ranging, eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus), using a fertility control agent. Our novel field experiment revealed that females altered their behaviour in direct response to the energetic demands of reproduction: reproducing females increased bite rates, and thus food intake, when the energetic demands of lactation were highest. Reproducing females did not reduce the time spent on vigilance for predators, but increased their forage intake on faecal-contaminated pasture, thereby increasing the risk of infection by gastrointestinal parasites—a largely unrecognized potential cost of reproduction.
PMCID: PMC3210684  PMID: 21733874
cost of reproduction; eastern grey kangaroo; foraging behaviour; lactation; Macropus giganteus

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