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predators for large animals?
>It seems to me that most animals of *large* stature lack predators.
>Elephants being a prime example but lety me add that as far as i have ever
>read, seen, or heard the large marine mammals lack predators as well,
>except for possibly the killer whale and I dont think that i've ever heard
>of one attacking a blue whale. I could easily be incorrect but i cannot
>recall ever knowing of such a thing.
Well as various workers have pointed out, comparisons with modern faunas
can be misleading. We are in the middle of a mass extinction of large
vertebrates, so that the current diversity is very impoverished compared to
the way it was some few tens of thousands of years ago. For example, the
number of "elephant" (in the broad sense, including mastodonts) species was
three or more times the current number (2) for most of the last few million
years, up until 10,000 years ago or so. More to the point, most of the
potential elephantid predators (sabertoothed cats, possibly some of the
exinct bears, etc.) are gone.
However, one genus of elephantid predator, Homo, is doing very well (no
"smiley face" for this comment - it's very serious. Many people tend to
forget that we are part of the evolutionary history of life on earth as
much as any other species, and since H. erectus we've been hunting
Of course, predators in general do not go after healthy adults, anyway.
Mature elephants (and probably sauropods, ceratopsians, hadrosaurids, etc.)
were probably not typical prey items, but young, sick, weak, or old
individuals more likely were.
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist in Exile Phone: 703-648-5280
U.S. Geological Survey FAX: 703-648-5420
Branch of Paleontology & Stratigraphy
MS 970 National Center
Reston, VA 22092