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        Roused from their night's slumber by the rising sun, the flock of
_Deinonychus antirrhopus_ moved slowly through the open Early Cretaceous
forest in the salmon-colored light of dawn. A three month-long drought had
made food scarce, and as they went, they tossed aside cycad fronds and
ginkgko leaves with their muzzles, searching for some small morsel that
might be hiding having heard the sound of their approach. The group was an
extended family, mother and father, two young males from the previous
season, and a fledgling female just six months old. As they progressed
through a grove of _Tempskya_ tree ferns, the parents kept a wary eye out
for a neighboring flock that had been making forays into their territory
more and more of late.
        A rustling in the dry _Fontainea_ trees ahead caught their
attention, and almost as one, the flock wheeled in that direction. The
adult male, first into the trees, came upon a _Tenontosaurus tilletorum_
shuffling noisily through the undergrowth. It was readily apparent that the
large plant-eating ornithopod was old, diseased; scaly skin flaked in large
patches, revealing open sores beneath, and one of its eyes was rheumy. The
male _Deinonychus_, hungry after months of slim pickings, sensed the
weakened state of the decrepit plant-eater and quickly ran in to nip at the
beast's flank; his mate and offspring instinctively followed his lead, and
a rather disjointed attack began. But the old _Tenontosaurus_, startled by
the sudden appearance of the predators, still had some tiny spark of life
left in him, and as the dromaeosaur flock picked toothily at his weathered
old hide, he spun rapidly and lashed out with his tail. He caught two of
the theropods -- one of the young males and his female sibling --
off-guard, and knocked them off their feet. But it was too little, too
late; already on his last legs, dying of thirst and bleeding from a score
of wounds, the ornithopod lurched forward a few steps, then collapsed
sideways on top of the other three dromaeosaurs, crushing them beneath his
bulk and killing them.


        By the first light of dawn, the _Deinonychus antirrhopus_ pack was
up and running through the Early Cretaceous open forest in search of a
meal. The smell of prey was in the air, and as they approached a grove of
_Fontainea_ trees, the individual members of the pack split and dispersed
into the thick undergrowth, flanking their intended victim. On the other
side of the trees, a healthy young male _Tenontosaurus tilletorum_ grazed
unconcernedly on some low-growing _Acrostichopteris_. He never heard the
stealthy approach of the dromaeosaurs; one minute he was alone in the
glade, the next, he looked up to see a lone _Deinonychus_ standing at the
edge of the clearing before him. He bellowed noisily, but the threat did
not frighten off the predator. Suddenly, however, the rank smell of the
theropods filled his nostrils, and before he could react, the rest of the
pack broke cover and attacked, leaping and kicking. The ornithopod ran, but
several members of the pack had already leapt onto his broad flank and were
flailing repeatedly at his side with their killer claws. Blood flowed
freely from the gaping wounds opened by the sickle-claws, and the
tenontosaur hadn't gone a dozen yards before he collapsed from shock, his
bulk crushing to death three of the theropods unlucky enough to still be
clinging to his side as he went down.

Ladies and gentlemen, pick your paradigms...

Brian (franczak@ntplx.net)