A Background Study to Phytolith Analysis of Herbivorous Dinosaur Teeth: A Floral Reconstruction of Seven Excavation Sites in Western North America
Harmon, Danica Marie
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The relationship between herbivorous dinosaurs of the Jurassic and Cretaceous and their floral environment was investigated through phytolith analysis on herbivorous dinosaur teeth. When remnants of a dinosaur's final meal are embedded in the grinding surface of its teeth, individual plant cells may become fossilized along with the bone. These fossilized plant cells are called phytoliths. A seven week field trip to seven sites in western North America was carried out in June and July of 1999 to collect a variety of herbivorous dinosaur teeth. At each site, three methods were used to collect teeth: quarry excavation, prospecting, and borrowing from host collections. A floral reconstruction of each site was carried out to support conclusions about dinosaur diet. The reconstruction consisted of collecting fossilized plants in the vicinity of excavation sites, analyzing them, and tabulating results for each site. Because fossilized plants were often not well-preserved at quarry sites, a literature review was also used to supplement field findings.