Washington, May 9 : A new research has attributed the cause of most dinosaur skeletons exhibiting pits, grooves and furrows to flesh and bone-eating insects, which gnawed on the dinosaur bones.
According to a report in the Discovery News, the evidence comes from dinosaur bones that were buried under soft mud 148 million years ago after a nearby river overflowed.
Utah's Western Paleontological Laboratories recovered the bones and turned them over to Brigham Young University scientists, who recently pieced together what happened.
After scientists recreated the event, they found out that a Camptosaurus adolescent dinosaur died in what is now Wyoming, lying down for its final rest.
Flying low over a floodplain a few days later, dermestid beetles used their antennae to detect the odor of the decaying carcass, where they laid their larvae that consumed the dinosaur's bones.
"Bone consumption by dermestids is a last resort," said Brooks Britt, lead author of a report about the dinosaur bones. "They prefer juicy tissues," he added.
According to Britt, "However, larvae, lacking wings, cannot fly off to another carcass when food - soft tissues - becomes scarce."
"In order to become large enough to pupate and therefore survive to the adult stage, the larvae will resort to consuming the soft, greasy ends of bones and the marrow-filled interiors," he added.
Britt and colleagues Rodney Scheetz and Anne Dangerfield began their investigation after first noticing that tiny teeth marks accompanied the missing parts of their Camptosaurus skeleton.
Meaning bent lizard, due to its hunched over appearance, Camptosaurus was a beaked, early Jurassic plant-eater.
The teeth marks on its bones showed that the gnawers were very small and possessed two pointy teeth set on symmetrical jaws.
The scientists first tried to match this pattern with an extremely tiny mammal from the period, the Fruitafossor, but its skull and body diameter were still too large.
The researchers then narrowed down the suspects to four groups of insects known to eat bone. These include mayflies, moths, beetles and termites.
"Although it is not commonly known, termites can consume bone, both fresh and weathered, and can completely consume a human skeleton," according to the team.
Only dermestid beetles, which are still in existence today, matched the dinosaur bone marks, which Britt molded using materials obtained from his dentist, and then viewed under an electron microscope.
Britt and his team continue to study bug bites on dinosaur bones and have found that beetles did most of the damage during the Cretaceous, while termites dominated the dino-feasting during the Jurassic.