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Re: Sauropod inferences



A BRIEF REPLY.
With all due courtesy, I wish to point out to you that
your statement "all we really have at our disposal are
fossils" is -- how can I put it? -- not quite on my
wavelength. All we have are 9000+ species of living
theropods (in time, I am sure, the vast majority of
these species and genera will be collapsed into
scientifically accurate reflexions vs. colour-based
taxonomies). We also have quite fascinating work
(Craig Packer & team on lions, other workers on
hyaenids & rhinos & vultures,  Katy Payne on
elephants, etc. etc.) on extant mammalian and avian
herbivores and carnivores (with insectivores and
frugivores in the mixture)...all giving the dinosaur
scholar insights into analogous econiches. I believe
it likely that behavioural systems are replicated
time-and-again throughout evolutionary history. I
would also add something else: fossils of pre-K/T taxa
are not silent, nor are extant ecomorphologies useless
in stepping back in time, as it were; one can
establish probabilities of behavioural strategies
(brooding, hunting, predator-prey strategies, etc.)
using ongoing processes. I am not sure what you mean
by "unscientific conjections [sic] and assumptions"
etc. Take, e.g., biomechanics: with computer
simulations, after having scanned AMNH 5027, it has
been possible to visually recreate how a tyrannosaur
walked, how its jaws operated with a nut-cracker bite
(Ralph Molnar's dissertation on the taxon is still
quite cogent), etc. Phil Tippett and Stephen Czerkas
have animated dinosaurs (and, of course, as have
FrameStore) one can use as visualizations of
inferences. From this, and knowing something of its
ecosystems, one can reasonably assume the animal was a
successful predator. Predators, today, have
behavioural systems one can study (regardless of
classification, mammalian or dinosaur, it is likely
predators share(d)trends of behaviour). I do not think
this is "hoopla and banter". The search for
understanding why, 65 million years later, dinosaurs
thrive and survive (albeit in smaller form, with some
econiches "ruled" by bats in the night skies, and
other taxa -- the big cats and hyaenids come to mind
--fulfilling similar roles of pre-K/T taxa [and the
Cenozoic "terror birds", now gone[)...well, this is
part of the search, is it not? Contra those who would
shirk it, the imagination is a valid exploratory
mechanism. 
*******************************************************
--- Jordan Mallon <j_mallon@hotmail.com> wrote:
> Here's the point: as nice as it is infering dinosaur
> behaviour from the 
> likes of horses, rhinos, sheep, etc., dinosaur
> science is already up to its 
> ears in meaningless, unscientific conjectures and
> assumptions.  It's easy to 
> forget that, when dealing with the likes of
> dinosaurs, all we really have at 
> our disposal are fossils.  And as useful as they can
> be, there's also only 
> so much they can tell us (hmmm... this reminds me of
> another thread I've 
> been following).  Can your ungulate parallels
> *really* serve as a guide for 
> extracting sauropod behaviours?  Can you apply the
> papers you've 
> exhaustingly read over and over again to a pile of
> bones?  Because, in the 
> end, that's what it really boils down to.
> Admitedly, I haven't yet read the papers you refer
> to (it's the weekend, and 
> I don't have access to my university's library right
> now), but I'd be more 
> than willing to check them out if you can point out
> how they might be 
> applied to sauropod bones.  But if all this hoopla
> and banter serves only to 
> add to the aforementioned unscientific conjections
> and assumptions, then 
> it's just a waste of time here on this dinosaur
> science mailing list.  Great 
> for story books; bad for science.
> 
> Jordan Mallon
> 
> Undergraduate Student, Carleton University
> Vertebrate Paleontology & Paleoecology
> 
> Website: http://www.geocities.com/paleoportfolio/
> AIM: jslice mallon
> 
> >From: StephanPickering@cs.com
> >To: j_mallon@hotmail.com
> >CC: dinosaur@usc.edu
> >Subject: Re: Sauropod inferences
> >Date: Sat, 2 Nov 2002 09:15:49 EST
> >
> >Try reading, try sitting down with an university
> library computer and
> >entering the search terms. Bifurcation theory is a
> powerful, still 
> > >untapped tool for use in sorting out the dynamics
> of population 
> > >extinctions among dinosaurs. A useful
> introduction would be the works >of 
> >V.I. Arnold. If this is daunting, try: Luo Dingjun,
> Wang Xian, Zhu >Deming, 
> >Han Maon, 1997. Bifurcation theory and methods of
> dynamical >systems. Or 
> >any of the fascinating extrapolations of A.S.
> Kondrashov, >A.I. Khibnik and 
> >Yulij Ilyashenko. Game theory. Well, John Maynard
> >Smith published the 
> >first study in 1982 -- dated, but useful. Lee Alan
> >Dugatkin & H.K. Reeve, 
> >in 1998 released a brilliant compendium, Game
> >theory & animal behavior, 
> >which provides one with a wealth of data for
> >applicability to pre-K/T 
> >dinosaurs. I think it disappointing that >Stephen
> Gould never fully 
> >explored evolutionary game theory, and its >absence
> from discussions of 
> >dinosaur behaviour hampers extrapolations. >I'm
> afraid that, while 
> >interesting reflexions of primate behaviour on >the
> edge of chaos and 
> >constipation, children dressed up in costumes
> >borrowed from the post-Black 
> >Death superstitions of eastern Europe
> >do not provide one with critical thinking re:
> dinosaurs.
> 
>
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> 


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