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Re: Phorusrhacids killing large mammals in National Geographic Channel

Delurking from the shadows....

Birds have an interesting immune system, first systematically studied by a guy by the name of Stroud while in Federal prison. (I've got a copy.) They suffer greatly from ailments as other creatures do. A rating system comparing mammals to birds would be difficult however because they are completely different in their responses to certain "germs" (for lack of a shorter more accurate phrase). Birds mask their symptoms well so as to not look sick in the eyes of their own species so as to avoid being pushed out of the "safety in numbers" aspect of their existence. Resistance to any particular bacteria will almost always be species specific and certainly genus specific. There are certain "germs" pretty much attack anything. More typically, there are cross order or family problems as the current buzz about swine influenza indicates. However, I doubt the average fish has much to worry about from it. Anyone ever see a turkey vulture with a stomach ache? Nice eating habits there. Hyenas also get into some nasty things and don't have issues on a large scale from their nocturnal feasts.

Birds do however have a very big problem with blood loss. If they start to bleed, they die quickly primarily because they don't have that much to loose and go into shock easily.

Cats do play with their prey in a nasty way. Catch them, chew a little, let them go, pounce again ad nausium... Cats spread many diseases that are cross species agents with humans. Cat Scratch Fever for those of you that appreciate that golden oldie.

Applying this to dinosaurs would be impossible except to say that your basic dinosaur probably didn't have the cleanest dental hygene and therefore a bite from almost anything can and could turn into a nasty infection. Don't let a Varanus kimodoesnsis get his teeth on you or you'll be taking antibiotics for a while assuming you get away. Nasty! There has been a lot of chatter about species of dinosaurs have used the flora living in their mouths by just getting a bite in, stepping back and being patient letting the infection kill their intended prey. They avoid a greater risk of injury in a fight that way. Something about survival advantage......

Bliss Dinosaur ranch report:

A couple of nice denticulate Cretaceous mammal jaws and misc teeth from various cretaceous mammals have come out this year. Lots of regular Hell Creek stuff as well as lots of misc teeth from virtually everybody that had teeth to give at the time. I located what looks like another animal slowly working his way to the surface. I'll pass judgement on him later after unrelated mid-August activities have passed. Had some early guests, they had a great time and found lots of interesting things. There are a lot of critters other than dinosaurs in the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Fm. I haven't even had time to open up the triceratops site this year so it remains under several layers of tarp and earth. It's been there 65 million years, what's a few more weeks. The small stuff is much more fun that those durn big bones and much easier to store. I've got 6 foot long ribs literally hanging from my ceiling. Can't wait till I get 20 or so.........

Frank (Rooster) Bliss

On Jul 25, 2009, at 11:28 PM, Erik Boehm wrote:

Is it likely a Phorusrhacid would be similarly doomed
by a defensive bite from a mammal?

isn't a small mammal (ie a mouse) just as
vulnerable to being in a predator's mouth as a small
bird?  a Phorusrhacid would likely have tougher skin
than a parakeet does.

I don't know how a small mouse would fare after having been in a cats mouth. Obviously, the wounds from the teeth are the more immediate threat. In the event a mouse is rescued *mid attack* from a cats mouth, such that there are no deep cuts - no blood loss, no organs or bones damaged... I have no idea how it would cope.

I was just wondering if anyone knew the "relative strength" of bird vs mammal immune systems.

I was just surprised how quickly this (obviously escaped pet) bird succumbed to infection after very minor wounds. Other than that, I have no idea about the strength of bird immune systems, so I was just wondering if they are in general "weak", and wondering what effect this would have on their predation methods.