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Re: Khaan's paleoecology
Luc Bailly (email@example.com) wrote:
<I'm beginning a _Khaan_ drawing, and I think I'll draw it in quite
"steppic" landscape, eating
_Gingkoales_ or conifer seeds.
Will it work like that?>
No. The Ukhaa Tolgod locality is a dune field with outcroppings,
most likely, and would have
resembles parts of the northern Sahara, edges of ergs, with a little
more water. Plants are not
well-studied, but appear to be more scrub-land or rocky-desert types.
If you've ever been in the American West, you've probably seen it.
Very cool, weird non-angiosperm (gnetophyte) which looks like a
brushy bunch of green twigs growing out from woody sticks. Chinese
have used it for a long time for the stimulant, known of course as
ephedrine. Apparently, in Nevada, where just about everything else is
legal (gambling, prostitution, beer that isn't watered down like in
Utah), ephedrine is *illegal* w/o prescription. Something to keep in
mind if you pick it up over the counter there. Very bizarre as it's
also known as Mormon tea, I guess the Church disapproves of caffeine
but not ephedrine?; anyhow it makes a very nice tea if you boil the
stems with a bit of lemon and some honey as a sweetener.
Unfortunately, although it is a cool plant it is impossible to root
from cuttings and difficult to transplant, which is weird considering
that it grows around alkali flats and in the Chihuahuan desert and
all. If it's not the state tree (well, shrub) of Utah, it ought to be.
That makes me think... the stuff has a heck of a
distribution, and it's probably been around a while, so its a decent
bet its been growing in deserts for a long time. I wonder if
oviraptorosaurs chewed on the stuff, they look capable of handling
some pretty tough vegetation; those jaws clearly were designed for a
very high bending resistance. It's pretty obvious looking at
dicynodonts that oviraptorosaurs were up to the same thing (like
Cracraft argued), there are a number of remarkable convergences in
the jaw structure, palate, and jaw articulation. Which would be handy
if we figure out what dicynodonts were up to... Ephedra doesn't look
too tasty but ground sloth coprolites have been found full of the
stuff and I think cattle will gnaw on it, it's also very abundant
where it grows. "Abundant" in the sense that it may not be that
abundant but not much, and sometimes nothing, else is growing with
it. Welwitschia-type plants? Welwitschia is an interesting one, its
habit of growing from the base as in grass looks like an anti-grazing
adaptation. Unless its primitive or something, many monocots, e.g.
aloe do the same thing... it's too damn bad it's so hard to grow
since it's an extraordinarily cool plant. 6$, aridlands.com, but
don't try it without being able to maintain constant high
temperatures (100+ during the day is optimum with a cool night) and
daily waterings. Seeds available by the dozen or 100 from
saseeds.co.za. Do either of these guys have any fossil record at all?
First reference on secondary flightlessness in dromaeosaurs
is Paul, 1984; I think the journal is Hunteria. Also check out
Kurzanov's suggestion that the oviraptorosaur Avimimus was feathered
and up to something that may have ultimately given rise to flight; it
is possible to find English versions of some of his short articles on
the animal. Often review articles on flight origins are pushing an
agenda rather than conducting a review in my opinion (minority views
are often simply treated as if they do not exist) but check out
Witmer's for actual review of the problem, very thorough.
Teeth in alvarezsaurs are small, straight, unserrated. They
are present pretty extensively in the dentary. They are absent from
the posterior maxilla, where instead a sharp bony ridge (beak?) was
present. I'm not sure if there were any in the jaw tips. Sorta
suspect not; to the extent that they are toothed (myrmecophages are
weird in either eliminating teeth, or actually increasing them- giant
armadillo has one of the highest tooth counts in mammals),
myrmecophages tend to be gap-toothed, e.g. sloth bear, numbat.
Numbat is kind of cool in that the incisors move laterally to
eliminate teeth from the front of the mouth, rather than eliminating
any teeth, the molars have multiple simple, conical cusps lined up
and therefore function as a series of simple teeth. Incipient
myrmecophagy for David Letterman is supported, but as in the aardwolf
appears to lack the fossorial specializations to open termite mounds
and therefore may specialize on colonial insects exposed on surface.
Feeding behavior of the talk-show host in natural habitat will be
required to confirm or reject this biomechanical scenario.