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Re: taxonomy is not stratigraphy (was Re: JVP 25(2): New Dinos, Birds, Discoveries)
While the argument of massive herbivores being the selective pressure for
massive carnivores is a wonderful story, it doesn't seem to play out in, at
least, any modern ecosystem. All super carnivores today are many times smaller
than half that of the largest herbivore in the same ecosystem.
Wolf vs. Carribou/Elk
Bobcat vs. Moose?
Lion/Tiger vs. Elephant/Water buffalo
Orca vs. well ... any mysticete
None of these "superpredators" are capable of taking on the "prey" without
inconventience of the latter or assistance of numbers of the former. To
determine in the past whether such behaviors occured requires extraordinary
In the Serengeti, lions will not take on a water buffalo unless its disabled,
stuck in mud, or sick. Smaller (read: weaker) and seldom full size and
full-health animals fall to either lion or wolf, because even in numbers, the
mass of the animal is prohibitive and not conducive to continuing-health.
We have, at Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, a "predator trap" with a massive
concentration of carnivores but with -- by numbers -- much fewer herbivores.
This seems exemplative of such weakened, disabled animals as to be picked on by
groups or phases of predators.
To be big, perhaps, as Nick said, is to prevent predators from killing you.
Herding permits animals to grow bigger with less reduction of the population.
So it seems Mesozoic dinosaur herbivores were either tiny, armored, huge, or
bore offensive anatomy. This seems a response that was rather effective. Of
course, just so stories can explain either herbivore preventive size-gain, or
theropod offensive size-gain, but in the end ... the only way to determine an
animal killed another is with something like the Fighting Dinosaurs (and even
_that_ is ambiguous).
Jaime A. Headden
"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)
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