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Re: cause of Gigantism in sauropods



2011/2/14 Dan Chure <danchure@easilink.com>:
> This has been a long and interesting thread.  A discussion with lots of
> theoretical and hard data in it.  But I think there were several episodes of
> Jurassic Fight Club that "based on the latest scientific discoveries"
>  showed how all this was done.
>
Your remark involves a true criticism of our (morbidly
Animal-Face-Off-like?) biases. The thread started in relation to the
causes of gigantism in sauropods and easily transformed (partially mea
culpa of course) into a sauropod vs. theropod confrontation
discussion. Was a coevolutionary arms race between predator and prey
ever proved? I only know about a book on coevolution (named
Coevolution) where Bakker put this into doubt in the case of Tertiary
mammals at least. We did not think much about other causes, perhaps
because the relationships of sauropods to plants looks less
"exciting". For example, one can say that if trees got tall enough,
they would need very long necks to reach the canopy or a very heavy
weight to throw them to the ground in order to reach the said canopy
(or both things, of which sauropods may have been capable). And
focusing on small plants may not have been sufficient if, as in many
of our forests, the high canopy interferred with photosynthesis near
the ground (so most of the primary production would be located on the
canopy, making animals focusing in said canopy be sustained by greater
resources, and then becoming more abundant at least in biomass, than
those feeding in small plants). I think that relationships with the
vegetation are likely more important in shaping important features of
herbivores than predation, because predation commonly affects only a
small fraction of the herbivore population, while possibility of
consumption of vegetation affects ALL individuals in the herbivore
population. Now, pardon the ignorance of much work on this, but in
order to test this, we may ask if there was some correlation between
maximal plant size and sympatric maximal sauropod size.