Some Herbivorous Dinosaurs Ate like Vacuum Cleaners

Large swamp-dwelling dinosaurs—like the Brachiosaurus—had heads that floated on the water and sucked up their food like massive vacuum cleaners. So declare two scientists that compare the physiology of the gigantic brutes to the bulky, noisy household vacuum cleaners sold to consumers during the 1950s.

Designed like a canister vacuum cleaner

200 million years before canister vacuum cleaners made life that much easier for harried housewives, dinosaurs like the lumbering Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus were nature’s natural vacuums.

For many years intense debates raged amongst scientists over the long-necked dinosaur species. The giants roamed swampy areas of Earth from about 200 million years ago until their extinction 65 million years in the past.

Dinosaurs like the Brachiosaurus were bulky and massive. Their long necks led some researchers to  extrapolate those dinosaurs were able to reach the tops of very high trees and munch away on the choicest, tenderest leaves.

The researchers derived that theory from observations of giraffes that use their long necks in exactly that manner.

Other researchers—who considered the blood pressure required to raise and keep d long-necked dinosaur’s head high up in the air—scoffed at the idea and argued back that such a feat would inevitably lead to the animals’ dying of massive strokes.

Now two brilliant researchers, Professor Graeme Ruxton from the University of Glasgow and Dr. David Wilkinson from Liverpool John Moores University have concluded a mathematical study, “The energetics of low browsing in sauropods,” recently published in Biology Letters.

Their innovative research accounts for the long-necked physiology of such dinosaurs by comparing the creatures to old-style tubular vacuum cleaners.

The beasts’ bodies actually do resemble the old-fashioned vacuums’ basic design—having a large tank, extendable hose, and a swiveling head that’s cleverly engineered to suck things up.

Like those older cylindrical floor vacuums, the Brachiosaurus and other long-necked dinosaurs sucked up their food when they foraged in the swamps. Doing so allowed them to move slowly while covering a large area without using up much energy while they ate.

The two researchers employed the math to prove their theory makes sense. The showed that the ideal neck length matched that of the real animals and by vacuuming up their food in such a manner.

“Each increment of length brings a further saving, but the sizes of such benefits decrease with increasing neck length. However, the observed neck length of around nine meters for Brachiosaurus (for example) is predicted to reduce the overall cost of foraging by 80 per cent, compared with a minimally necked individual,” the authors of the study state.