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You are here: Home Individual Projects Second Funding Period (2007-2010) Project U6: Bone Geochemistry

Project U6: Bone Geochemistry

Title Growth, diet, thermophysiology and mobility of sauropods - implications from bone isotope geochemistry for palaeobiology and gigantism
Principal Investigator Dr. Thomas Tütken
Researchers A. Heuser, Daniel Herwartz


Bones and teeth are valuable archives of the life history of the individual vertebrate. They record in their isotopic composition information about the growth, diet, thermophysiology and mobility as well as climate and environment.

In this project time-series of annual climate seasonality and dietary intake will be determined by serial sampling of growth increments and isotope analysis of the biogenic apatite on histologically and geochemically well-characterized sauropod long bones. The recorded seasonal oxygen isotope cyclicity will be used as annual time marker for (bone-) growth. Quantitative growth curves will be calculated for all major sauropod taxa and are fundamental for understanding the ontogenetic and phylogenetic evolution of sauropod gigantism. Diet and feeding strategies which enabled sauropods to attain and sustain their enormous body mass will be investigated by analyzing the carbon isotope composition of their bones and teeth as well as of potential extant and fossil food plants. Mobility of sauropods during food and water intake from different resources will be traced isotopically. The influence of laying eggs on the calcium metabolism of extant and extinct archosaurs and its potential use as gender proxy will be explored analyzing calcium isotopes of bones and eggshells.

Finally the applicability of the lutetium-hafnium isotope system for direct radiometric dating of fossil bones will be developed to date the evolution of gigantism in the sauropod lineage. Bone isotope geochemistry will provide important new insights into the palaeobiology, palaeoecology, and evolutionary success of sauropod dinosaurs, the largest land animals ever.


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