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Re: Jurassic Park IV

Long before gunpowder, humans encountered and killed mammoths, all sorts of big cats, canines (did the early north american settlers encounter Dire Wolves?), hunted large sea animals, etc. Mostly with simple long pointed sticks.

Absolutely: never underestimate long pointed sticks. Heck, they remained a battlefield weapon between *humans* until comparatively recently.

A phalanx of men in the finest of Greek/Macedonian tradition could probably stand against all but the largest of therepod predators.

And more to the point, said predator would turn and walk away when confronted with a row of armored, sharp, angry prey animals, which is the primary point I thought was worth mentioning here.

To the take the general aspect of the issue: the entertainment industry (even many science documentaries, if they take a dramatic angle) has had a tendency to push the idea that predators charge bravely into mortal combat, risking near-certain death to feed helpless young. Of course, this is ridiculous for large, vertebrate predators with low reproductive rates. While predatory insects, and similar taxa, may take high risk predation opportunities, those predators that cannot tolerate such attrition do not, and this includes most vertebrates.

Predators are looking for a meal, not a fair fight, and portraying them as "fighters" more than "feeders" has, I think, somewhat distorted the average viewer's concept of prey acquisition in the natural world. After all, this is why armor, spines and other bits of armament work so well: a potential bit of predator sustenance does not need to even the odds, it only needs to make the possibility of retaliation more than distant. 5:1 odds for a cat or canine are hardly sufficient to take the risk, but many programs and anecdotal comments have accumulated over the years suggesting that your average large predator faces nearly 1:1 odds against its potential prey (depicting such scenes where reckless theropods charge a fully aware nodosaurid or ceratopsid, only to be skewered). Because dinosaurs include very large, charismatic predators, they have been more abused in this regard than even most living mammalian carnivores, and I would suggest that those here with popular press opportunities make mention of this when appropriate (for example, if you happen to have a press release related to theropod feeding). It always helps to chip away at major misconceptions.



Michael Habib, M.S. PhD. Candidate Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution Johns Hopkins School of Medicine 1830 E. Monument Street Baltimore, MD 21205 (443) 280-0181 habib@jhmi.edu