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Re: GANGING CROWS & LIZARDS



B.Dol@skn.sc.philips.com said:
"Small 
brainsize would be a limiting factor in the learning abilities of 
animals etc etc. I guess those people have never heard about ants. 
These incredibly small animals have an even smaller brain, but behave

as groups and have structured techniques for defense. There are even

species of ants which hunt as one big organism (sorry; don't know the

name...). They have a highly evolved system of communication with a 
kind of sign-language with their antenae and use all kinds of 
chemical communication too. 
There are, without a doubt, more examples of little, non-mammal, 
small-brained animals which have a kind of behaviour which we could 
call 'pack-behaviour'."

While ants and other social insects are fascinating creatures, this
is a false analogy to pack hunting.  Ants act together as a collective
whole because most of them are literally clones.  There is little
thinking involved, and some ant researchers (E.O. Wilson among them)
have described ant behavior as organized anarchy.  This is not pack
behavior - most ants have no chance at reproduction (unlike the
vertebrates in a pack) because most are sterile, so if a worker ant
dies there's plenty more of that to go around.  In a wolf pack, if a
wolf dies ... different story!

Plus, ants are not vertebrates.  If we want to acertain intelligence
and cooperative behavior in dinosaurs, we need to constrain our search
for analogies to vertebrates, particularly archosaurs.  But read my
recent posting concerning analogies!  The brain-to-body size ratio is
a useful yardstick - it may not tell you how the living animals
interacted, but it gives you a decent idea of higher level
intelligence.  Since when the brain/body quotient is large in extant
vertebrates they tend to have highly developed cerebrums, and the
opposite for vertbrates like 'gators and snakes, if dinosaurs fall
within the extant reptile range, the simplest explanation is that
their "higher" intellectual powers were probably on par with those of
crocodilians and other reptiles.  To argue against this, you need
examples where tiny brains correspond to high intelligence, or some
other test.  

I second Dr. Holtz's last e-mail - no one is saying dinosaurs are
stupid, but we don't have unequivocal physical evidence to say, "Yes,
predatory dinosaurs were pack hunters like extant mammalian
carnivores."  And what is ignoble about not being mammal-like when
dinosaurs were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for approximately
160 million years?  Whatever they did, they did it very well.  Damn
asteroid ... oops!  Not a another thread! =)

Matt Bonnan