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dinosaur foraging behavior



          Although I agree with those persons who complain that the popular 
     media show a tendency to see dinosaur behavior as excessively 
     mammal-like, I nevertheless think that one could make at least a 
     circumstantial argument for some kind of pack-hunting, or at least 
     group foraging, in some theropods.  For openers, the social behavior 
     of some living reptiles is surprisingly sophisticated.  Young lizards 
     of some species (e.g. green iguanas) will often hang out together for 
     some time after hatching (see, for example, G.M. Burghardt, 1977, Of 
     iguanas and dinosaurs: social behavior and communication in neonate 
     reptiles, American Zoologist 17: 177-190).  In an irritatingly brief 
     passage, Walter Auffenberg (1980, The herpetofauna of Komodo, with 
     notes on adjacent areas, Bulletin Florida State Museum Biological 
     Sciences 25: 39-156) wrote (p. 105) of hatchling Komodo dragons that 
     "The young normally appear in April through May, and there is some 
     evidence that they remain together in small groups for several months" 
     (oddly enough, Auffenberg had nothing more to say about this in his 
     book about the ora--damn).  Now suppose that some such cohorts were to 
     remain together beyond childhood, and there is a ready-made mechanism 
     which might have resulted in dinosaur herds, flocks, groups, pods, or 
     whatever you want to call such groups.
          If we couple these observations with the taphonomic association 
     of Deinonychus and Tenontosaurus skeletons (Maxwell and Ostrom, 
     Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 15: 713-725) and the not infrequent 
     dinosaur trackway sites that suggest group behavior in dinosaurs, it 
     does not seem a stretch to suppose that some theropod species may have 
     hunted in groups.  These need not necessarily have been tightly 
     integrated packs like wolf, hunting dog, or hyena packs.  One could 
     imagine a group of theropods flushing some prey animal, and each of 
     the hunters, individually, attacking it on its own.  It might have 
     been a thoroughly nasty, messy scene, but this kind of group hunting 
     does not strike me as beyond the mental capabilities of theropods (see 
     J.O. Farlow, 1976, Speculations about the diet and foraging behavior 
     of large carnivorous dinosaurs, American Midland Naturalist 95: 
     186-190 for some of my earlier thoughts on this subject).