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The maw of the Nigersaurus gaping open to reveal its vacuum cleaner-esque intake.  (Source: Associated Press)

The Nigersaurus skeleton, next to a human...note the paper-thin backbone.  (Source: Associated Press)
Most dinosaurs are pretty neat, but paleontologists say this one just sucked

Just when you think you've seen it all, some scientist goes and discovers something that turns your entire world upside down.  Today, this revelation might coming in the weird and wild discovery of a dinosaur which, by all indications, behaved like an ancient vacuum cleaner.

The dinosaur, an 110 million year old plant eater was discovered in the Sahara desert and was supposed to be unveiled by the National Geographic Society on Thursday.

The dinosaur was named Nigersaurus taqueti, after the African country, Nigeria, and the French paleontologist Philippe Taquet.  It was about the size of elephant.

The dinosaur's discoverer, Paul Sereno, first began working with the dinosaur's bones, found in the 1950s by French Paleontologists, but not identified. Working through the 1990s he painstakingly reconstructed its skull and skeleton.

The result was uncanny.

The dinosaur's skull, which was pieced together had a wide jaw that resembled the intake of a vacuum cleaner.  After sucking up food, it ground the food up with hundreds of sharp pointy teeth. 

Its grazing habits were akin to a cow with a vacuum cleaner and food processor attached to its mouth.  Just like a cow, it would graze along the ground, except, where the cow would have to bite and chew, the Nigersaurus just sucked and ground.

The Nigersaurus had 50 columns of teeth within its feath light skull, with replacements, akin to shark teeth, ready to fill in, if one broke off during feeding.

Scientist first realized how much the Nigersaurus sucked while examining CT scans of the interior of its skull.  By looking at orientation of canals in the organ that keeps balance, the typical position of its head was revealed.  From this, its unusual feeding behavior was determined.

Vacuum eating wasn't the only interesting feature of this dino.  It had a backbone, much like a bird, which consisted of more air than bone. 

"The vertebrae are so paper-thin that it is difficult to imagine themcoping with the stresses of everyday use -- but we know they did it,and they did it well," exclaimed Jeffrey Wilson, assistant professor at theUniversity of Michigan and an expedition team member.

The team's findings will be published in this week's PLoS ONE journal, the online journal of the Public Library of Science.  It will also have a featured cameo in the December edition of National Geographic.




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