Link Feast - April 19, 2008
Friday Spring Wanderings with Lots of Flowers: Part 1, Ayr Mont

Dinosaur Saliva

[If you don't want to read about dinosaur digestion, I'll have a spring flowers post tomorrow.]

Jurassicpark_2In my Sex and Violence post, while discussing Jurassic Park (right), I mentioned the wet inside of a Tyrannosaurus' mouth.  Today, at dinner, I started wondering if that is the case.  Do all creatures have saliva?  Tyrannosaurs had teeth but not for chewing.  How did their digestion work?

Hmm...., in a comparison of birds and dinosaurs, says:

Both birds and dinosaurs are designed to ingest food in relatively large pieces that are processed internally.  Mechanical reduction in the mouth (chewing) is very rare in birds. The best examples occur in cuckoos, hoatzins, and turacos. The teeth of dinosaurs suggest that chewing was limited to a few groups of plant-eaters. Both dinosaurs and birds ingest rocks or grit to assist with mechanical reduction. The saliva of birds lacks digestive enzymes and chemical reduction (digestion) is wholly internal. The properties of dinosaur saliva are unknown.

If this is correct, then my post probably was fine.  It's not all that easy to find information on Tyrannosaur digestion.  Most webpages have more about the digestive systems of herbivorous dinosaurs, but they focus on the food gathering habits of the carnivores, usually with words like "rending" and "slashing."

California Wild Fall is very helpful with Tyrannosaur digestion:

Erickson was pleased to see that the coprolite corroborated his previous ideas that the shearing teeth of tyrannosaurs pulverized bone as they bit down on huge hunks of meat. Though the coprolite reveals that much bone passed through the guts undigested, other rounded pieces were partly dissolved by strong stomach acids, so the predator may have obtained nutrients from the prey's skeleton. "It tells you about the physiology of these animals," says Erickson. "They could digest bone to some degree." Chin, though, remains impressed by how little bone digestion occurred, compared with how much crocodile dissolve swallowed bones.

By the way, if you google "Dinosaur spit,"  one of the most common results, mentioned while discussing the water cycle, goes something like this: could be drinking what was once dinosaur spit.

Googling "dinosaur saliva" was more useful.

Another "dinosaur spit" result was from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, which mentioned Jurassic Park

For movie buffs it might be interesting to note that a highly stylized dilophosaur appeared in Jurassic Park as the frilled, poison spitting dinosaur that attacked Nedry, the devious computer hack, at the bottom of the waterfall. The movie version is rather misleading, however.  Real dilophosaurs were larger than depicted in the movie, and show no sign of having possessed a colorful, expandable fold of skin along the neck as does the cinematic dilophosaur.  Also, there is no evidence that they could spit poison.

Also, human saliva is 98% water so it really shouldn't seem all that gross.  However, that knowledge doesn't change the way I feel.

For some strange reason, no one else wanted to discuss my question at dinner.

(Aren't you glad you don't have to dine with me?!)



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