Plant eating mammals have bigger bellies: Study

London: Based on 3-D reconstructions of animal skeletons, a new study has revealed that herbivorous mammals have bigger bellies than their usually slim carnivores counterparts.

The study revealed that on average, herbivorous mammals have a body cavity that is twice as big as carnivores of a similar body size.

“This is a clear evidence that plant-eating mammals actually have larger guts,” said Marcus Clauss, Professor at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

In dinosaurs, however, there is no notable difference between carnivores and herbivores, the researchers observed.

“We were amazed that there wasn’t even the slightest indication of a difference between herbivores and carnivores in dinosaurs,” Clauss said.

For the study, a team of researchers headed by the University of Zurich and the Technical University Berlin studied the shape of the ribcage in more than 120 tetrapods — from prehistoric times up to the present day.

With the aid of photogrammetry and computer imaging techniques, the scientists produced a 3-D database for skeletons of dinosaurs, reptiles, birds, mammals and fossil synapsids (mammal-like reptiles).

Using the computer-based visual evaluation of this data, they reconstructed the volume of the body cavity, which is delineated by the spinal column, the ribcage and the pelvis.

“The discovery reveals that there’s a fundamental difference in morphological principles between mammals and other tetrapods,” Clauss explained, in the paper appearing in the Journal of Anatomy.