Scientists have discovered a 72- million-year old plant eating dinosaur with massive, scissor-like teeth that it used to tear through tough, fibrous leaves of ancient palm trees. The fossil remains of the dinosaur – Matheronodon provincialis – which was about 16 feet long and had a short face, were excavated at a site in southern France. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that the most notable thing about the dinosaur was its teeth. Not only were they quite large for a dinosaur of its size, but they were fewer in number. Researchers, including those from the University of Poitiers in France, noted that some of the teeth were six centimetres long and others up to five centimetres wide. As a member of the rhabdodontids, they had teeth with ridges covered by enamel on just one side – the other side had very little enamel and no ridges, researchers said. Teeth that were located on the upper jaw were situated such that the enamel and ridges were on the outer side, while the teeth on the bottom jaw were the opposite, they said. The net effect was a mouthful of teeth that resembled pinking shears – serrated scissors commonly used for sewing, researchers added.
The team looked at the teeth under a microscope and found a similar pattern of enamel and ridging, which researchers noted protected the teeth from wearing away. Instead, chewing served not only to crush food for consumption, but also sharpened teeth.
Researchers suggest M provincialis was a bipedal vegetarian — its big teeth would have allowed it to crunch even the toughest vegetation, including palm tree parts, which the team believes were abundant during the time these dinosaurs were active.
Previous research has suggested the area where it was uncovered was once a tropical river system that was part of a flood plain which explained the presence of palm trees, flying reptiles, turtles and crocodiles all living during the same time period.