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article imageSurvival of mass extinctions linked to less picky eating

By Michael Thomas     Apr 23, 2014 in Science
Children are often scolded by their parents when they don't eat all the food on their plate, but researchers have discovered that picky eaters are also less likely to survive mass extinctions.
The study was conducted by Larisa R.G. DeSantis of Vanderbilt University and Ryan Haupt of the University of Wyoming. The two looked at dental data of prehistoric big cats. According to Mashable, while cougars — who eat meat, guts and bones — survived a mass extinction event 12,000 years ago, the American lion and the sabre-toothed tiger weren't so lucky.
"Before the Late Pleistocene extinction, six species of large cats roamed the plains and forests of North America," DeSantis, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University, said in a press release. "Only two — the cougar and jaguar — survived. The goal of our study was to examine the possibility that dietary factors can explain the cougar's survival."
For their work, DeSantis and Haupt used a technique called "dental microwear texture analysis," which involves using a high-powered microscope to create 3D images of the surface of teeth. With these images, they could see what, and how often, the cats ate. Eating red meat left small, parallel scratches on teeth while chewing bones left much larger pits.
The researchers found that cougar teeth from 12,000 years ago were fairly similar in composition to modern-day hyena teeth, Nature World News reported. Hyenas are also known to devour whole animals, bones and all.
"This suggests that the Pleistocene cougars had a 'more generalized' dietary behavior," DeSantis said. "Specifically, they likely killed and often fully consumed their prey, more so than the large cats that went extinct."
Mashable reports that to this day, cougars have not changed their dietary patterns and still eat entire animals.
More about mass extinction, Big cats, picky eaters, Cougars, dietary patterns
 
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