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Re: My Gr. 9 Science Fair Project: Questions

>I understand that when a panther or a shark preys upon a human, the
>authorities try to find and kill that animal because that animal is
>likely to eat other humans.  This implies that dangerous predators
>normally let humans pass because they don't consider humans food.

All predators, and herbivores for that matter, develop search images for
the most viable and abundant food resources available to them in their
habitat. It isn't until a predator becomes weakened, diseased or injured
and can no longer capture the food items that it has become habituated to
that it may begin to experiment on rarer, easier to catch items such as the
occassional human. This is thought to be the reason why many "man eaters"
(sexist bastards) are apparently older or injured animals.

>Similarly, if duckbills were smart enough to avoid becoming part of the
>diet of most crocs, perhaps most crocs didn't go after them.

No (here we go again). If modern predators habituate to common food items,
chances are that crocs would have habituated to those abundant, tasty

>Past scares with hippos might also encourage crocs to behave.

This does seem to be the case.

<Snip the story of the egg-thieving snake (all circumstancial evidence mind
you, it would never hold up in a court of law).>

>This led me to speculate that perhaps reptiles learn from mistakes and
>avoid repeating scary confrontations.

Yes, this does seem to be the case.

>Perhaps a croc that once had a scary confrontation with a mother hippo
>would want to avoid starting trouble for the rest of its life.  Perhaps
>there were once crocs who felt that way about duckbills.

Oh bugger! Just when I thought I was getting somewhere. Crocs leave hippos
alone because hippos are big fat mongrels, heavier in weight than the
crocs, and armed with a nasty set of teeth that can slice a croc in half.
Compared to Deinosuchus, hadrosaurs were about half the size and didn't
have any nasty little surprises that were lethal to crocs (what is it going
to do? Honk the croc to death?). Crocs are scared of hippos and not
intimidated by hadrosaurs for the same reason you would be respectful or
Rosanne Bar with a chainsaw but would gladly pick on Danny De Vito if he
was nude, bound and gagged (baggs first kick).

*Disclaimer* despite flippant comparisons to the contrary, this post does
not endorse the mistreatment of celebrities.

Cheers, Paul

Dr Paul M.A. Willis
Consulting Vertebrate Palaeontologist
Quinkana Pty Ltd