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Re: DINOSAUR BEHAVIOR



Brian Franczak wrote:
 
> Jay, I certainly defend your right to enjoy JURASSIC PARK, but your idea
> that any of the behaviors depicted in that movie are "plausible" needs to
> be questioned. Dinosaurs were *never* capable of behaving like lions. 

In fact, it's worse than that.  One of the most obvious things about the
dinos of JP the movie was an error: their voices.  No modern predator of
any sort would roar, or hiss, or snarl, or spit, or do anything else
that would create noise, when it's hunting.  Animals make noise when
socializing (those that do socialize) or when defending self or turf
against an invader.  But when hunting, they try to be as silent as a
fog.

> And Jonathon, thank you for articulating something that's bothered me for 
> quite
> some time as well: the "Bakkerian Superbeast" model of dinosaurs *is* way
> over the top, and is no more believable or realistic than the swamp-bound,
> sluggish reptilian view that Bakker himself has fought so hard to dispel.

Exactly.  Granted that _Deinonychus_ looks like an agile, fast, active
animal, and granted that the hind-foot claw looks big and sharp and
nasty enough to shred anything made of flesh -- still, why would a
killing weapon be placed on the _hind_ foot when it had perfectly
serviceable jaws and forelimbs equipped with their own array of
customized cutlery?  More than once I've come back to the thought that
among mammals, only cats have claws that look even remotely like a
dromaeosaur's inner one, and cats do use those claws for something
besides killing.  If the thought of a three-meter-long dinosaur in a
tree sounds peculiar, well, so does the thought of a two-meter-long
lioness in a tree.  Lionesses climb trees all the time.  It's a standard
defense against a hyena pack.

> Furthermore, even in mammalian groups, only a figurative handful of
> predators hunts cooperatively -- lions, Spotted hyenas, wolves, African
> wild dogs, dholes, dingos, and Bush dogs habitually hunt in packs; Canada
> lynx, coyotes, and two of four species of jackals -- mosttimes solitary --
> also occasionally hunt in this manner. Worldwide, there are 35 different
> species of cats, but of all of them, only one -- lions -- always works
> together in a group to bring down prey for all to share; all other cats are
> solitary hunters. The dog families fare somewhat better, with 8 cooperative
> hunting types (also out of 35 species), 

There's a couple more you can add to this list: humpback whales often
hunt cooperatively, using mass "bubble nets" to herd and capture herring
and other fishes.  Among cats, cheetah sometimes form hunting groups of
two or three, usually a mother with yearling cubs or a set of males from
the same litter.

> but it must be remembered that while wolves *will* hunt caribou, deer, and 
> moose, their main diet consists mostly of small rodents, primarily mice. 

This isn't correct; where wolves live, there also large prey lives, and
the large prey is usually the wolves' primary prey.  They eat a lot of
hare-size animals too, but mice aren't big enough to sustain wolves for
long. The only thing I've ever seen that suggested that wolves eat
primarily mice-size prey is Farley Mowat, and Farley Mowat's book was
written as propaganda, not fact.  All the serious studies like Murie's
THE WOLVES OF MOUNT MCKINLEY strongly indicate that wolves, like lions,
get maximum return for minimum energy output (which is the whole point
of hunting) by going after large prey in packs.  Except under rare
circumstances, when a dog-size animal hunts a moose-size animal,
co-operation is the only way to go.  Which implies that either
dromaeosaurs did hunt in packs, or their primary prey was no larger than
they were.

> The cold hard reality
> from observation of extant species is that the ability to hunt
> cooperatively is strictly a mammalian one -- and rare even then -- and that
> the bird or crocodilian brain (and thus through inference the dinosaur
> brain) is incapable of the higher functions necessary to perform this task.

Well said.

-- JSW