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On Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 12:26 PM, Vivian Allen
> Hey Jason! Yeah, I guess that's my point. What evidence would you need
> to prove an animal is primarily a scavenger, beyond the scavenging
> that just goes with being a predator? I guess it depends on corpse
> occurence, distribution and size.
The integument might provide some clues, if sufficiently preserved.
Vultures and the marabou have a naked head and neck; plumage is fouled
by blood and gore. If we found an alvarezsaur specimen that had
plumage over most of the body, but absent from the neck and head, it
could indicate scavenging habits in life. Ditto for a pterosaur.
An alvarezsaur preserved in situ with its head and neck inserted deep
into the back end of a sauropod torso.... well that would help. Along
the lines of the _Velociraptor_-_Protoceratops_ "Fighting Dinosaurs"
tableau from the Gobi. Though the mind boggles what inventive
captions one could come up with for the alvarezsaur-sauropod
> Here we go: published arguments for discussion
> Ruxton & Houston 2004: Obligate vertebrate scavengers must be large
> soaring fliers.
... but opportunistic scavengers come in all shapes and sizes. :-)
The hypothesis of a scavenging lifestyle for azhdarchid pterosaurs was
evaluated by Witton & Naish (2008). The big sticking point: stiff
necks might have limited their ability to insert themselves deep into
a carcass. Although Witton & Naish don't actually reject the notion
of azhdarchids being scavengers, they find no evidence (anatomical or
taphonomic) to support the hypothesis that they were obligate
scavengers - despite arguments dating to the 1970's that the
azhdarchid _Quetzalcoatlus_ was an obligate scavenger.