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Dinosaurs May Have Brought Wisconsin Rocks Westward

Study suggests they were eaten by sauropods and transported hundreds of miles to Wyoming
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2021 10:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – A few years ago, scientists at a dig site in Wyoming came across rocks that seemingly had no business being there. They were round and smooth, smaller than a human hand, and unlike anything else in the region, per Wyoming Public Media. So how did they get there? In the journal Terra Nova, researchers have put forward a bold theory: They say dinosaurs ate the rocks in Wisconsin and carried them in their bellies on a migration westward. The first clue came when the researchers cracked open the rocks, studied the zircon crystals inside, and concluded that they originated in Wisconsin, explains the New York Times. The next piece of the puzzle is more speculative. Long-necked sauropods were known to eat small rocks—called gastroliths—to aid with digestion. Such rocks are often found amid the remains of the giant plant-eaters, notes Big Horn Radio Network.

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Researchers put two and two together and concluded that the most logical explanation for the rocks turning up about 1,000 miles from where they were formed is that the dinosaurs brought them there. "There hasn’t really been a study like this before that suggests long-distance dinosaur migration using this technique, so it was a really exciting moment for us," says study co-author Joshua Malone of the University of Texas at Austin. One caveat: No dinosaur remains were found alongside these particular rocks, leading one geologist to tell the Times that more evidence will be necessary to prove the theory. Birds and modern reptiles also eat stones to help with digestion. In the case of the dinosaurs, the rocks likely remained in their bellies until the creatures died. (One type of sauropod may have been the biggest creature in history.)

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