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Documentaries & Sabertooths
Just watched several documentaries on prehistoric animals: (Thank God for
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
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
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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