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possible ceratopsian feeding behaviour?
Ongoing work on the ecomorphologies of the white
rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum) raises interesting
inferences re: ceratopsians. During dry seasons, what
was the dry matter intake of a ceratopsian herd?
Nutrient levels during these seasons, of course,
declined, and while it may be logical to assume they
adjusted their rates of intake, observations of white
rhinos (while not as large, may have analogous
ecobehavioural systems to ceratopsians) show
otherwise. During dry seasons, white rhinos use fat
reserves to sustain metabolic requirements, and why
not the same for ceratopsians?
Rhinos are not herbivorous vacuum cleaners, eating
whatever they can obtain. In fact, they are highly
selective. Consider: often it is presumed that smaller
dinosaur herbivores would need to selectively obtain
high quality nutrients to maintain high basal
metabolic rates, and that larger herbivores could not
be as selective and, thus, eat anything. Rhinos, like
ceratopsians, have wide mouths and (it goes without
saying) large body size -- yet, select certain foliage
and certain species within these foliage.
One other item is applicable. It is probable that the
dinosaur hyperherbivores, as it were, had respiration,
digestion, and basal metabolic rates (all interlinked)
derived from large, multichambered, heterogeneously
partitioned, crosscurrent gas exchanging lungs. While
homoiothermic endothermy may have been energy
inefficient for, e.g., sauropods, there is, as yet, no
data to indicate that ceratopsians could not have
possessed metabolisms more able to adapt to the
environmental stresses of the late Cretaceous than
sauropods (causing the latter to be displaced).
All of this, needless to say, reminds me of Rimbaut,
who said something applicable to us all studying
dinosaurs: we are to be "voyants...through a long,
immense and reasoned derangement of all the
senses...to arrive at the 'unknown'".
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