The munchers

Published: Sunday 15 July 2001

The advent of chewing by a group of herbivores 260 million years ago may have signaled one of the first great bursts of vertebrate life on land, say paleontologists from University of Toronto, Canada and Duke University, USA. "The real boost in the success of vertebrates on land started with the ability to process plant material efficiently," says Robert Reisz, professor of paleontology at the University of Toronto. The first leaf-eating terrestrial herbivore appeared on land about 290 million years ago. Suminia getmanovi , was the first to chew and shred the leaves into small bits before swallowing, thereby allowing maximum absorption of the plant's energy and nutrients.

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