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Re: Sauropod browsing energetics

On 3/24/2011 8:53 PM, Scott Hartman wrote:
Hold up.  A longer neck will almost always mean you can browse more
bites per step.

Almost always? In all but the most specialized (and unlikely) habitat case (populated by plants that are spaced very widely *and* of a size such that the shorter necked animal can access the entire plant).

That's not at all the same as saying you can take
more bites (browsing) per unit time.

Sure it is. Shortnecked animals have to take more steps, and no animal I have observed can graze or browse effectively while in mid-step.

Considering two animals that browse at equal rate between steps, but do NOT browse during steps -- the animal that must take the fewest steps to maintain browse access definitely wins the harvesting contest...

Especially when you consider the likelihood in reality of both horizontal (in the case where substrate is less than ideal) and vertical areas of browse that the short-necked "multi-stepper" cannot reach.

> If resource allocation and neck
speed motion is such that your long neck takes more time to sweep from
one side to the other than it would take to just take a few steps then
it's wrong.

Heh. You are speculating that a sauropod body could move it's head a given short distance by walking, in less time than it could by swinging the neck. That's OK w/ me, but all the people that say the mighty sauropods could kill theropods by clubbing those pitiful bipeds with devastating neckslams are not going to like it. If they hear about this, and you need a safe place to hide out, you can crash in my barn until things cool down...

Furthermore, even if it's true in a given environment
it's only energetically favorable if the costs of having the neck
don't outweigh the increase in browsing rate.

Whatever the "24/7" costs of having a long neck were/are, long necks were and are energetically affordable to those that have them.

Given that elephants are known to need to forage as much as 22 hours a day to find enough food, and sauropods were much bigger than elephants (apparently because they *had* to be) -- it seems doubtful that *anything* outweighed an increase in absolute browsing capacity, in terms of evolutionary advantage accruing to certain morphological traits.

I still say the entire debate is a question in search of a problem, or perhaps more accurately a debate in search of a question -- it would seem to me that to establish a plausible speculation that long necks in giant herbivores are primarily a response to something OTHER than resource acquisition, it first must be established that increasing resource acquisition was/is not a critical problem on the path to giantism, and/or long necks were/are not useful in increasing total resource acquisition capacity.

Not going to happen...