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EVIL FANGED CERAPODANS



In an unscheduled departure from recent discussions on rearing 
sauropods, pronunciations and very obscure generic names, Ken Clay 
wrote about aggressive behaviours recorded for extant herbivorous 
(sensu lato!!) mammals. In particular Ken writes... 

> A few stories suggest that elephants may become man eaters.  In
> 1944, in a Zurich zoo, a person with a particularly close
> relationship with an elephant, actually slept in a room next to its
> stall.  The next day all that was found was a human hand and toe.

This well documented case (I forget the name of the woman involved) 
was first bought to attention by zoo vet David Taylor: it occurred 
during WWII when food for zoo animals was being rationed (and 
presumably before zoo animals were conscripted into labour). As I 
understand it, it was not a hand or toe that revealed the elephant's 
lapse into carnivory, but the handbag and clothing that was passed by 
the elephant the following day. Incidentally, Asian elephants have 
been known to exhume human carcasses and then eat them. Nice. 

To bring this round to dinosaurs, and this is yet another follow-on 
from discussions some of us had at SVP, many people are now 
suggesting that dinosaur groups traditionally regarded as pacific 
herbivores - ceratopians, heterodontosaurs and small ornithopods 
among them - may in life have been aggressive and omnivorous or 
carnivorous. I now have difficulty in looking at psittacosaurs or 
basal neoceratopians (and this is something I am doing a lot of 
lately:)) without thinking of them as 'vicious [not viscous] little 
snappers', to paraphrase GSP (the Gakken book). 

Fact is, the number of extant herbivores (s.l.) now on record as 
exhibiting carnivorous tendencies is large, and increasing as the 
species are better studied. Duikers (_Cephalophus_) and other small 
antelopes prey on small vertebrates; sheep and deer eat seabirds on 
occasion; hippos have been reported to kill and eat a variety of 
other animals; sirenians are now known to eat tunicates. Notably, 
many (not all) of the animals involved here have a generalized 
dentition compared to hypsodont grazers or other specialized 
herbivores. Therefore maybe all dinosaurs that had some degree of 
heterodonty were part-time carnivores; beaked ceratopians with 
toothless rostra could have gotten along just fine with their beaks. 
To my knowledge, no one other than Greg Paul has yet equated 
dinosaurian heterodonty with omnivory (I think I recall Greg saying 
that heterodontosaurs could have subdued small animals with their 
tusks, again in the Gakken book).

I once saw a horse eat a hotdog.

"They shouldn't have an ungual on digit IV"
"I already said that - goddam it, I ALREADY SAID THAT!! I ALREADY 
SAID THAT!! I SAID IT FIRST!!! They shouldn't have four hand claws!!" 
 - - another memorable SVP moment.

DARREN NAISH 
PALAEOBIOLOGY RESEARCH GROUP
School of Earth, Environmental & Physical Sciences
UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH
Burnaby Building
Burnaby Road                           email: darren.naish@port.ac.uk
Portsmouth UK                          tel: 01703 446718
P01 3QL                               [COMING SOON: 
http://www.naish-zoology.com]