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Protoceratops agression (was Re: semilunate carpal)



But, you know, I wonder what possible advantage an unprovoked attack would serve to a _Protoceratops_.

I can think of one or two reasons a _Protoceratops_ might attack a _Velociraptor_.


First one, perhaps it's behaviour was such that a group of _Protoceratops_ would hound a lone predator that came across their path. This might be advantageous in firstly reducing the population of predators by as much as it is possible for _Protoceratops_ to do, secondly in making predators less likely to venture into _Protoceratops_ territory, and thirdly in stealing away the predators element of surprise if it was trying to stalk the herd or something like that. I can imagine a predator leaving a hunt once it lost that advantage.
Of course this was a lone animal, and that behaviour implies that it was with a group of _Protoceratops_, but perhaps the rest of the group moved on (I don't know much (or anything, actually) about the taphonomy of the particlular specimen, but maybe the combatants were dead before they were covered, and there was time between the deaths and the landslide for a small herd of other animals to get bored and move on?).


Of course _Velociraptor_ may've been a stupid choice to pick a fight with, but maybe the apparently suicidal behaviour was less deadly in the long run than leaving such predators alone? Or maybe it was disadvantageous behaviour that turned out - in practise - to be not quite disadvantageous enough to be heavily selected against. Or maybe _Protoceratops_ became more inclined toward such behaviour only after mating, or later in life.

A second possibility, perhaps the _Protoceratops_ was "in heat" or something similar. Perhaps a _Protoceratops_ in rutting season would attack just about anything roughly its own size that wandered across it's path?

Maybe it was an extension of territorial behaviour in a similar way. Perhaps a _Protoceratops_ with newly aquired territory blindly defended it against anything, wether it be a rival _Protoceratops_ or a small predator. Maybe it was some behaviour that we don't observe among any living animals. We only have real behavioural data on Quaternary animals - and this is after a small wave of extinctions, too. Noone on this list would need to be reminded what a minute slice of geological history we have actual observation of animal behaviour for, so the range of behaviours observable today most likely wouldn't be the full range that evolution can produce, so we can speculate no end of weird scenarios in which a _Protoceratops_ might attack something we'd consider to be best left alone. My (reasonably uninformed) position is that some of these scenarios aren't unlikely at all. What do others think?

I wandered around Melbourne University zoology library for a few minutes between classes, looking for papers dealing with non-predatorial inter-species (not sure thats the right term) agression, but it was just a quick look so i didnt find anything. So - for interest's sake - anyone else have knowledge of observations of modern-day herbivorous animals that display anything similar to the kind of agression i speculated on for _Protoceratops_ above? I'm pretty sure animals like deer, bison and moose (meese? :-) are dangerous to be around during rutting, and i have vague memories of reading somewhere something about geese (and other birds) hounding foxes (and other predators) within their territory, but i can't back that up (i.e. with references).

David Elliott

(by the way, sorry if this is an old topic, i think Tracey Ford mentioned that the "just because it was a herbivore doesn't mean it can't have been the agrressor" argument was brought up by her in a previous thread, but i couldn't find it doing a search on "dangerous agressive herbivores" so im not sure wether the original discussion covered the same ground or if im starting something new. Hopefully the latter.)

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