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Documentaries & Sabertooths

Just watched several documentaries on prehistoric animals: (Thank God for cable TV!!)

National Geographic's Dinosaurs: INside and Out was very. very boring, nothing new, and in fact for a seasoned dino nut like me, all I got was another retelling of dinosaur history. No mention of really good discoveries like feathered dinosaurs, Paluxy River tracks, Sue & all the other wonderful finds post- 1994!! And some really, really bad CGI animation!!

Jurassic Shark was very, very good, although their Carcharodon megalodon seemed a little fake. Very good & realistic resotrations of prehhistoric sharks though, and many intricate details about modern elasmobranchs. But where was Cretoxyrhina???

Sabertooth was also another good documentary, detailing the debates surrounding Smilodon fatalis. Also showed a very ingenious experiment: Reconstructing a mechanical Smilodon head and testing it on a dead bison to see if a stab to the belly or jugular was more effective. The verdict? Smilodon went for the jugular. (Is this accepted by most?) Some pretty impressive animation as well, depicting Smilodon chasing a herd of bison (sadly modern Bison bison, and not Bison latifrons), and another short scene showing the horror of a baby Columbian mammoth as it met its ancient nemesis.

Just watched the first episode of Walking With Beasts on TV (Man, the documentaries marrive real slowly here in Singapore) I can only say that it rocks! (Well, at least the first episode so far) A few points though: The Godinotia sound too much like chimps, and the forest animals are way too noisy!! Gastornis screaming, Godinotia hooting, Propaleotherium grunting and Ambulocetus roaring... Leptictidium seemed strangely mute amidst all this cacophony. Can't wait for the Basilosaurus episode next week.

BTW, here's a chance to slot in some more questions:

I just realised one thing: In the Mesozoic there were two ecological niches that were absent:

Are there any records of Mesozoic animals adapted for eating shellfish? Placodonts from the Triassic and the weird mosasaur Globidens fit the bill, but what about the periods in between?

And what about plankton feeders? Besides the enigmatic fish Leedsichthys, I can't seem to find any plankton filterers like todays, mantas, whale & basking sharks & baleen whales. Were plankton levels so low in the Mesozoic they couldn't support giants like these? It seems that the biggest animals in the seas of the Mesozoic were always predators (eg. Shonisaurus, Liopleurodon, Kronosaurus, Tylosaurus, Brachauchenius, Elasmosaurus, Mosasaurus etc etc)

Is the Larry Martin, the so-called sabertooth expert, the same Larry Martin who sides with Alan Feduccia and maintains that birds are not dinosaurs? If they are the same person, this puts a whole new perspective to my impression of this guy. I like him when he talks about sabertooths, but when it comes to birds, I just seethe inside...

And is there any new evidence for pride behaviour in Smilodon or any of the sabertooth cats? It would seem odd for so many social hunters in Pleistocene North America: American lions, dire wolves, grey wolves, the semisocial coyotes, the possible brotherhood alliances of American cheetahs, plus the Smilodon & Homotherium (not to mention that intermediate sabertooth) It seems astonishing to see so much large predator diversity on the continent. Not just the above-mentioned, but also the terror-bird Titanis, Teratornis and cathartid vultures, short-faced, brown & black bears, jaguars, mountain lion, ocelot, jaguarundi, bobcat, lynx, wolverine, were there hyenas in Pleistocene North America?? I can just imagine La Brea being the Pleistocene Serngeti, with vast herds of camels, horses, pronghorn & bison, with bighorn sheep in the uplands, deer hiding in the cover, moose and woodland caribou further up North, and sloths, glyptodonts, columbian mammoth & mastodon ranging everywhere. Pains my heart everytime I think that all thee were gone so recently...

And what forms of different prey would Homotherium & Smilodon have hunted? With their different body form, maybe they partitioned the prey. At least one of them must have gone after mammoths from time to time.

And while we're still at sabertooths (besides dinosaurs, mosasaurs & pterosaurs, nothing mkaes me more excited than sabertooths), what species were still around when Homo sapiens first appeared? I can only think of Smilodon fatalis, S. populator, Megantereon & Homotherium. Anything else and does anyone ahve a complete list of sabertooth species, their body form (dirk-toothed? scimitar-toothed?) and the age & distribution. Thanks

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