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Re: Saber-toothed cats and big theropods (was Re: Various minor subjects)

On Wed, 20 Dec 2000 13:56:09  
 David Marjanovic wrote:

>> Other than ill or trapped animals, I'm not so sure
>> that live mammoths would be suitable prey for
>> saber-toothed cats.  Too big and powerful.  Why risk
>> being killed by your prey animal?  A bison seems like
>> a more likely ambitious prey animal for _S. fatalis_,
>> for instance.
>Of course a mammoth is "too big and powerful" for *ONE* saber-toothed cat.
>What about a pack? (I don't know about any evidence for or against packing
>behavior in saber-toothed cats, but a pack of _Allosaurus_ or
>_Giganotosaurus_ should have been capable of killing just about anything.)
>As mentioned before onlist, a pack of lions can kill an adult elephant (but
>rarely does so -- after all, lions don't have saber teeth).

Although you were probably using lions only as an example, in reality lions and 
many species of saber tooth cats (i.e. Smilodon and its relatives) likely 
employed strikingly different hunting habits.  

Modern lions rely on speed.  Smilodon and its relatives were much stockier than 
modern lions, and, therefore, were likely ambush predators.  

Of course, that doesn't prove or refute pack hunting.  I think that Smilodon 
packs were probably quite common, although I can't prove this (other than by 
citing papers).  I know that a plethora of Smilodon fossils have been found in 
Rancho La Brea with healed wounds, which has led Larry Martin (I believe) to 
hypothesize that mates or family members cared for the sick and injured.  This 
is iffy, but I do know that holes the size of Smilodon teeth have been found in 
various Smilodon skulls, suggesting inter-species fights (possibly for mates).  
All this is theory, though.

The real question is whether or not you can draw parallels between possible 
saber tooth pack hunting and large theropod pack hunting.  I recall that a few 
months ago Curie and Coria announced that they had found a 'pack of theropods' 
in Argentina.  I don't know how believable this is though, as they may have 
just been washed into the same area by a flood.  However, I think it is 
plausible that some large theropods did hunt in packs.  Simply put, it may have 
been easier to hunt that way. 

I'd be interested to know if any solid footprint evidence may support pack 
hunting in large theropods.  I know of Ostrom's study regarding social behavior 
(pack hunting???) in mid-sized theropods (possibly Dilophosaurus??) in the 
famous Early Jurassic footprints of New England.  Then, of course, there is 
some other shaky data.  


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