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

On Wed, 20 Dec 2000 22:30:38  
 Larry Dunn wrote:
>--- Steve  Brusatte <dinoland@lycos.com> wrote:
>> 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).  
>They certainly may have closely associated, as lions
>do, but why pack hunting?  Lions don't really hunt in

Well, as both HP Jaime Headden and I pointed out, you can quite compare saber 
tooth tigers (Smilodon, in my case) to lions because the two likely employed 
different hunting patterns.  Smilodon was about the same size (meaning height 
and length) of a modern lion, but weighed about twice as much (give or take a 
little).  Because they were much huskier and stockier than lions, Smilodon was 
likely an ambush predator, while lions rely on their speed.

Does ambush predation mean possible pack hunting?  I don't know, but the other 
evidence I cited (such as the injuries and bite marks) may support it.  

>> 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.  
>Why that is, I'm not sure.  Modern predators that live
>in prides or packs (or whatever) are usually on their
>own when they are injured.
>(This same argument, by the way, was used by the Black
>Hills people with respect to tyrannosaurs.  To see an
>interesting perspective on this, check the archives
>for Darren Tanke's perspective on "healed" tyrannosaur

I don't buy the Black Hills argument...mostly because the 'broken leg' was an 
infection, and the infection was not on the femur or a weight-bearing bone, but 
on the fibula.  While I wouldn't recommend it, you could still walk if you had 
a broken fibula...

However, I believe the injuries seen in the Rancho La Brea Smilodon specimens 
were much more serious that a 'broken leg' or infection of the fibula.  I 
believe these injuries were more life-threatening.  If anyone has any refs, I 
would appreciate them.  

>> All this
>> is theory, though.
>Actually, it's hypothesis.  To be honest, I'm not
>completely sure it's even hypothesis!

Of course.  That's what I should have said.  

>> 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. 
>Easier to hunt large animals, sure, but why assume
>that large animals were the prey animals?  Isn't it
>more plausible to argue that they hunted animals small
>enough to take without serious risk of serious injury
>or death?  Why is that so hard to accept?  Isn't that
>in fact what the vast majority of predators do?

Yes, it would be much easier to hunt the young or injured in most cases.  
Nature is economical.  However, I believe there is some evidence for saber 
tooth tigers (including Smilodon) hunting large mammals (mammoths and ground 
sloths, I believe).  However, maybe these individuals were injured.  

I'm not a paleontologist, zoologist, or biologist.  I don't really know.  This 
is all speculation on my part, based on my readings, studies, and my 
observation of living animals.  I think that the evidence shows that there was 
some social behavior in Smilodon and its relatives.  Can I conclusively prove 
that?  No.  Can anybody?  Probably not.  However, for predators such as Smildon 
that didn't rely on speed, pack hunting was at least a possibility...in my 


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