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Re: Behaviour Bias

On Thu, 20 Feb 1997 13:24:14 -0500 (EST) Gothgrrl@aol.com writes:

>Our best data, so far, tells us this: dinosaurs lacked the 
>intelligence to
>develop "mammalian" behavioural patterns. The most intelligent 
>(some later theropods) could have matched the relatively complex 
>behaviour of
>some extant birds.<

What data is that?  Has dinosaur intelligence fossilized recently?  Just
because the brain casts are not the same shape or size as similar mammals
doesn't rule out complex behavior.  Cephalopods (octopus) do quite well
in the behavior department with very tiny brains!

>Again and again, there is the explicit or implicit message that unless 
>adopt a paradigm that allows us to see dinosaurs as  para-mammal 
>as rhino-analogues, allosaurs as lion-analogues, etc.), then we're 
>dinosaurs to the "bad old days" of swamp-wallowing. This is, of 
>course, quite
>certainly not the case.<

Agreed.  But I thing this is a normal "let's swing the pendulum way over
in the other direction to compensate for that silly old error" response. 
Pendulums do swing back and find a nice middle ground eventually.

>The disturbing part is that we may be allowing our status as mammals 
>dictate the way we *want* to see dinosaurs portrayed. <

I don't think this can be helped, just noted that it exists and we need
to be aware of it.  But if mammals have taken over most, if not all, the
ecological niches vacated by dinosaurs, then I see nothing wrong with
using mammals as a model.

>What's wrong with dinosaurs that 
>behaved like
>reptiles and birds? Personally, I find the behaviour of squamates and
>crocodilians very interesting, and it would be entirely mistaken to 
>say that
>ectotherms like monitors and crocs are anything but dynamic.<

Nothings wrong with it.  But why limit yourself?

>What I'm trying to say is simply that we need to take our lead from 
>the data,
>and only from the data. From testable models, and not from a belief 
>that a
>"pride" of cooperatively hunting _Velociraptor_ is more interesting or
>exciting than a flock of collectively foraging _Velociraptor_.

Agreed.  My impression was that their WAS evidence for pack hunting in
the fossils -- e.g., finding several Deinonynchus with a Tenontosaurus
(SP?) in such a manner to strongly suggest they died trying to kill it. 
Finding a Velociraptor locked with its foot in a Protoceratops certainly
suggests strongly that it uses its foot claw for killing/defense.  These
are only snapshots of isolated (and rare) incidents, but still, certainly
valid.  And how exactly do you go about testing the pack hypothesis if
the behavior won't fossilize (other than in the way described above?

Judy Molnar
Education Associate
Virginia Living Museum