Tetrapod Zoology

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I think I said recently that there have been way too many dinosaurs on Tet Zoo lately. It isn’t that I don’t like dinosaurs: it’s just that I aim to provide balance and, let’s face it, writing about charismatic megafauna all the time – especially dead charismatic megafauna – doesn’t help. However, I’m sure you’ll all forgive me for discussing my own published research. Last week another new paper came out with my name on it; hey, I’m fourth author of four, but it all counts, right? It’s on another new bloody dinosaur…

Given that I write on Tet Zoo about such diverse subjects as the global amphibian crisis, lake monsters, bird anatomy and the impending death of the oceans, you might be forgiven for thinking that I lack any sort of area of speciality in the zoological sciences. As it happens, I do have one: I am the Leading World Expert on the theropod dinosaurs of the Lower Cretaceous Wealden Supergroup of southern England… and, no, I don’t expect you to take this claim at all seriously (not that I’ve ever made it).

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The Wealden Supergroup has been yielding theropod remains since the early 1800s, but most of our knowledge has been accrued within the last three decades. Among the most impressive of recent discoveries is the spinosaurid Baryonyx walkeri, discovered in the Weald Clay Group of Surrey (on the English mainland) in 1983 (Charig & Milner 1986). In the Wealden Group of the Isle of Wight, two additional discoveries have kept Wealden theropods in the headlines: the carcharodontosaurid allosauroid Neovenator salerii, discovered in 1978, named in 1996, and monographed in 2008 (Brusatte et al. 2008), and – easily the neatest of Wealden theropods – the basal tyrannosauroid Eotyrannus lengi, discovered by amateur collector Gavin Leng and described preliminarily by Hutt et al. (2001). The full description of Eotyrannus is complete (it’s in my 2006 PhD thesis) but has yet to be published, as I have yet to find the time to turn it into a paper. Maybe I should spend less time blogging. Some additional information on the animal was included in Naish & Martill (2007).

Neovenator and Eotyrannus were both contemporaneous, as both come from the same unit within the Wealden Group: the Barremian-aged Wessex Formation (sorry if all of these stratigraphic terms are giving you a headache: Wealden strat is not for the faint-hearted. The image above might help). A moment ago I said that Baryonyx is from the Weald Clay Group, and not from the Wealden Group, as are Neovenator and Eotyrannus. However, teeth (Martill & Hutt 1996) and isolated bones (Hutt & Newbery 2004) demonstrate that Baryonyx was present in the Wessex Formation too, though – because the Wessex Formation teeth differ from those of the B. walkeri holotype in various of their details – it’s been suggested that the Wessex Formation baryonychine might be a separate species. Ultimately we won’t know until we have better remains, however. Whatever [Todd Marshall Neovenator below, © Todd's Paleo-Illustration site].

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So, we have a large carcharodontosaurid, a large spinosaurid, and a mid-sized basal tyrannosauroid living alongside one another in the Barremian of what’s now southern England. There are also a number of smaller Wessex Formation theropods. Our ideas on what some of these might be have changed within recent years, but the continued, frustrating absence of good remains has made it difficult to reach definitive conclusions. Nevertheless a recent review (Naish & Martill 2007) regarded Ornithodesmus as a dromaeosaurid, Calamosaurus as a possible basal tyrannosauroid (though one that is not congeneric with Eotyrannus), and Aristosuchus as a compsognathid. Thecocoelurus has been argued to be a caenagnathid oviraptorosaur (Naish & Martill 2002) but I now have fresh doubts about this, though I won’t reveal them here (and, no, it’s not a therizinosauroid). I keep saying that Yaverlandia is a troodontid, but have yet to publish the full argument (again, it’s in my PhD thesis and awaiting publication). There is also scrappy evidence for large dromaeosaurids (Sweetman 2004). Material in private collections shows that additional taxa are present; hopefully the specimens I have in mind will, eventually, make it into formal collections and then be available for proper study.

The big news is that yet another new theropod is reported in the new paper (Benson et al. 2009). The material isn’t great – partial pubic bones and a fragment of femur (accessioned together as MIWG 6350: shown below, from the paper) – but it’s enough to show (1) what sort of theropod we’re dealing with, and (2) that these remains don’t belong to any of the previously described taxa. The specimen was originally collected by Keith Simmonds in 1986: it was alluded to in the 2001 book Dinosaurs of the Isle of Wight, but has otherwise gone unmentioned in the literature. We’re confident that the remains belong to the same animal, as they were discovered in close association, and match in size and preservation.

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The pubes have posteroventrally curved shafts (that is, the shafts curve gently backwards as they extends downwards), the two medial flanges of which form an apron (in other words, bony shelves project inwards from the inner surfaces of both pubic shafts) that is separated for about half of its length by a long slit. A blunt pubic boot, consisting of the conjoined ends of both pubes, is present. It must originally have had a projecting anterior part (since lost), but its posterior part is wide and tapers less than do the pubic boots of coelurosaurs. Oh, because the two halves of the pubic boot are not completely conjoined (a suture is still present anteriorly), their owner was presumably still growing and not yet osteologically mature. The femur fragment consists of the distal end. Both condyles are preserved, as is a deep extensor groove on the fragment’s anterior surface. By comparing the size of these remains with better theropod specimens (like the Neovenator skeleton), it is estimated that the MIWG 6350 theropod was about 5.3 m long when complete [Eotyrannus below].

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So what was this dinosaur? Its long, slit-like pubic fenestra and deep extensor groove show that it’s a tetanuran, but the relatively broad pubic apron indicates that it’s not a coelurosaur. So, it’s a basal tetanuran of some sort. Its pubic and femoral morphologies are very different from those of Neovenator and Baryonyx. Pubes and femora are unknown from Eotyrannus, but – given that this taxon is a tyrannosauroid (and hence a coelurosaur) – we can predict with confidence that Eotyrannus will differ from MIWG 6350 in the detailed shape of its pubic bones, at least. So MIWG 6350 really is something new: a big, basal tetanuran that is not congeneric with Neovenator, Baryonyx, or Eotyrannus. The remains are not good enough to be named, as unique characters are absent. So this is another of those distinct species that remains in limbo for the time being.

How many big theropods is too many; how few is not enough?

What makes this discovery particularly interesting is that we have another big theropod in the Wessex Formation assemblage. It seems to be a general pattern for Late Jurassic and Early-mid Cretaceous ecosystems that at least three large theropods inhabited the same environment. They typically belonged to distinct clades, and they presumably partitioned the resources somehow by exploiting different prey. In the Morrison Formation, for example, the big-toothed ceratosaur Ceratosaurus was contemporaneous with small-toothed allosauroid Allosaurus and the strong-armed spinosauroid Torvosaurus. In the Cenomanian ‘continental intercalaire’ of northern Africa, the ceratosaur Rugops lived alongside the giant allosauroid Carcharodontosaurus and the long-skulled spinosauroid Spinosaurus, while in the Aptian-Albian Elrhaz Formation of Niger, the ceratosaur Kryptops shared the habitat with the allosauroid Eocarcharia and the spinosauroid Suchomimus (Brusatte & Sereno 2007, Sereno & Brusatte 2008, Benson et al. 2009) [the Elrhaz Formation theropods were previously discussed on Tet Zoo back in March 2008] [image below shows Dinosaur Isle Visitor Centre - the repository where MIWG 6350 is kept - in the mist. Phil Currie, Dick Moody and Eric Buffetaut are standing in the middle].

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The Wessex Formation therefore fits the pattern, and seems normal for a mid-Mesozoic terrestrial ecosystem. The idea that big/gigantic macropredators were able to carve out their own niches like this might seem somewhat counter-intuitive, as big predators in the modern work frequently compete when they occur in the same place. Maybe this is something to do with the carrying capacities of ecosytems, and/or with a larger ‘standing crop’ of prey animals in the Mesozoic? The detailed work has yet to be done, though there are a few nods in the direction of resource partitioning: see Henderson (2000). And, the fact that the co-existence of several big theropod species was normal brings home the fact that those habitats where only a single big theropod occurred were abnormal (late Maastrichtian western North America, I’m looking at you).

Finally: yet again, the Wealden continues to yield new stuff, despite more than 100 years of study, and despite cropping out in one of the most thoroughly explored regions of the world.

Yes, despite being incredibly lazy, and despite being an idiot who has made no contribution whatsoever to palaeontological knowledge, I have yet again published an awesome paper in a top-flight journal. I didn’t do it alone, of course, but you get the point. Thanks to Roger, Steve and Steve. There is, of course, more to come.

For previous articles on Wealden dinosaurs, see…

Refs – -

Benson, R. B. J., Brusatte, S. L., Hutt, S. & Naish, D. 2009. A new large basal tetanuran (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Wessex Formation (Barremian) of the Isle of Wight, England. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29, 612-615.

Brusatte, S., Benson, R. B. J. & Hutt, S. 2008. The osteology of Neovenator salerii (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Wealden Group (Barremian) of the Isle of Wight. Monograph of the Palaeontographical Society 162, 1-75.

- . & Sereno, P. C. 2007. A new species of Carcharodontosaurus (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Cenomanian of Niger and a revision of the genus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27, 902-916.

Charig, A. J. & Milner, A. C. 1986. Baryonyx, a remarkable new theropod dinosaur. Nature 324, 359-361.

Henderson, D. M. 2000. Skull and tooth morphology as indicators of niche partitioning in sympatric Morrison Formation theropods. Gaia 15, 219-226.

Hutt, S., Naish, D., Martill, D. M., Barker, M. J. & Newbery, P. 2001. A preliminary account of a new tyrannosauroid theropod from the Wessex Formation (Early Cretaceous) of southern England. Cretaceous Research 22, 227-242.

- . & Newbery, P. 2004. An exceptional vertebra from the Wessex Formation (Lower Cretaceous) Isle of Wight, England. Proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History & Archaeology Society 20, 61-76.

Martill, D. M. & Hutt, S. 1996. Possible baryonychid dinosaur teeth from the Wessex Formation (Lower Cretaceous, Barremian) of the Isle of Wight, England. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 197, 81-84.

Naish, D. & Martill, D. M. 2002. A reappraisal of Thecocoelurus daviesi (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Early Cretaceous of the Isle of Wight. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 113, 23-30.

- . & Martill, D. M. 2007. Dinosaurs of Great Britain and the role of the Geological Society of London in their discovery: basal Dinosauria and Saurischia. Journal of the Geological Society, London 164, 493-510.

Sereno, P. C. & Brusatte, S. L. 2008. Basal abelisaurid and carcharodontosaurid theropod from the Lower Cretaceous Elrhaz Formation of Niger. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 53, 15-46.

Sweetman, S. C. 2004. The first record of velociraptorine dinosaurs (Saurischia, Theropoda) from the Wealden (Early Cretaceous, Barremian) of southern England. Cretaceous Research 25, 353-364.

Comments

  1. #1 tdh
    June 15, 2009

    I wonder what the stratigraphic records of modern humans would reveal over short timespans, as they battled for territory; imagine Poland in the decade centered on WWII or in the 20th century. Perhaps the contemporaneity of large predators is dynamic rather than static, a blurring of relatively short timeframes. Aren’t there, naturally, territorial shifts of large predators? Wouldn’t there have to be due to seasonal or short-term climate change and the corresponding migration of prey, absent confinement, or possibly to disease?

    On the other hand, don’t wolves, bears, and mountain lions coexist? Or sharks, killer whales, and squid?

  2. #2 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
    June 15, 2009

    Darren,

    Your comment about the Maastrichtian being the oddball out dovetails precisely with my presentation for the North American Paleontological Convention next week!

  3. #3 JS Lopes
    June 15, 2009

    Turonian Rio Limay Fm (Argentina) had Giganotosaurus and Mapusaurus (allosauroids)and Ilokelesia (ceratosaur).]

  4. #4 Jerzy
    June 15, 2009

    Congratulations for the paper!

    BTW – coexistence of several big predators is something normal in modern times – why it should not be so in Mesosoic?

    In N America you have cougars, lynx, wolves, bears and humans. And pre-historically, also sabertoothed cats, lions, dire wolves and short-faced bears.

    Coming to think about it: would within-genus differences like between wolf and coyote or gizzly and black bear be recognizable in dinosaurs, or lumped as individual variation?

  5. #5 Andrea Cau
    June 15, 2009

    Congratulation, Darren!

    Stupid question: why is the presence of autapomorphies necessary in the definition of a fossil species? In my opinion, an autapomorphy is only a synapomorphy waiting a new fossil that will broaden its distribution. Obsolescence works at every taxonomic level.
    The unusual combination of features present in this new theropod is not a valid diagnosis for the erection of a new species name?
    There are very complete species lacking autapomorphies.
    For example, Pengornis Zhou et al. (2008) is based on a good skeleton of a clearly new species and lacks unambiguos autapomorphies. It is considered a valid taxon, based on its “a posteriori” unusual combination of features derived from a phylogenetic analysis.
    Ok, this new Wealdien theropod is more fragmentary than the Pengornis holotype: at the same time, it is sufficiently complete to show it’s a new species. Consider that the phylogenetic position of Pengornis may change according to new analyses, so, its diagnosis (based on the phylogenetic position) may became obsolete.

    Ref. Zhonghe Zhou, Julia Clarke, Fucheng Zhang, 2008 – Insight into diversity, body size and morphological evolution from the largest Early Cretaceous enantiornithine bird”. “Journal of Anatomy” 212, pp565–577. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2008.00880.x

  6. #6 Adam Pritchard
    June 15, 2009

    Cool stuff, Darren. It’s always amazing to see that the formations that have been sampled since dinosaur paleontology began are STILL providing the world with new animals.

  7. #7 Andreas Johansson
    June 15, 2009

    I aim to provide balance and, let’s face it, writing about charismatic megafauna all the time – especially dead charismatic megafauna – doesn’t help.

    Is this an invitation to list obscure groups we’d like you to cover? ;)

    (I’d like aïstopods.)

  8. #8 JS Lopes
    June 15, 2009

    Adamantina Fm, Bauru Group, Southeastern Brazil, also had a abelisaurid-carcharodontosaurid-spinosaurid association.

  9. #9 Jorge Velez-Juarbe
    June 15, 2009

    Nice! Congratulations Darren!!

    So this is another of those distinct species that remains in limbo for the time being.

    So when/how does one decide it is better to publish on the material available, or just wait for better material to be found?

  10. #10 Mike Keesey
    June 15, 2009

    Yet another case of pachycephalosaur/troodontid confusion, huh?

  11. #11 Zach Miller
    June 15, 2009

    Congrats on the paper! I didn’t know that Neovenator was a carcharodontosaur, either. Learn something new every day…now here’s a question: what were all these giant theropods EATING?

  12. #12 Michael Erickson
    June 15, 2009

    “Maybe I should spend less time blogging.”

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

  13. #13 Michael P. Taylor
    June 15, 2009

    Zach: Xenoposeidonids, sadly.

  14. #14 Michael Erickson
    June 15, 2009

    Ugh. I always HATED that name, Xenoposeidon. I mean, what the !@$#&@# is up with that? Now we’ve got to call the clade it belongs to the Xenoposeidonidae. Yuck! Still, I guess it’s better than *cough* Bambiraptor

  15. #15 Zach Miller
    June 15, 2009

    Or Pantydraco. *snicker*

  16. #16 Michael Erickson
    June 15, 2009

    Oh, and don’t even get me started on Xiongguanlong

  17. #17 Nathan Myers
    June 15, 2009

    Congratulations, Darren on your membership in the ancient and distinguished order of the Wealdan Supergroup. I wonder, do they issue you a cape? Is there a secret elevator?

    Mega-predators in the late Jurassic didn’t need to contend with those ninjas of the Maastrichtian, azhdarchids like Quetzalcoatlus northropi, wheeling silently in moonlit skies, only to plummet headlong to snatch up a mini-mega-predator, and then leap again skyward before Mom could even locate her bedroom slippers.

  18. #18 RichardS
    June 15, 2009

    Nice paper Darren. It is a shame that this animal cannot be named – perhaps there needs to be some kind of informal name ‘Taxon A’ or something for published but unnamed taxa in formations to highlight the diversity a bit more? Also how does this animal relate (if at all) to Valdoraptor or even Becklespinax?

    Lastly I note that you call Torvosaurus a Spinosauroid and Kryptops a Ceratosaur. I assume you do so on the basis of phylogeny however it raises for me a question concerning group names. I know that you can use any inclusive clade / grade to describe an animal but it seems a bit misleading to call Torvosaurus a Spinosauroid considering how very un-spinosaur it is (compared to Baryonyx etc). Is it not better to call it a Torvosaur or is that name out of usage nowadays? Also I tended to think of Kryptops as an Abelisaur. I know the names you used are valid but the changing usage of similar names (especially when the difference is oid and id) causes much confusion in the non-scientific community.

  19. #19 Zach Miller
    June 15, 2009

    Yeah, I thought Kryptops was an abelisaur, too. Richard, the term “torvosaur” has been integrated into a larger “spinosauroidea,” which of course assumes that Torvosaurus is closer to Spinosaurus than other basal tetanurines.

  20. #20 Andrea Cau
    June 15, 2009

    Following the well supported standard theropod phylogenetic consensus,
    Kryptops is an abelisaurid, and abelisaurids are ceratosaurs: members of Ceratosauria.
    Being a member of Ceratosauria means “being closer to *Ceratosaurus nasicornis* than to *Allosaurus fragilis* (or to *Passer domesticus*… I prefer using Allosaurus, but the topology is the same as using birds)”.

  21. #21 Zach Miller
    June 15, 2009

    Oh, of course. I thought Darren was using the term to mean that Kryptops was a sister species to Ceratosaurus, which confused me.

  22. #22 Christophe Hendrickx
    June 15, 2009

    Yes, quite surprising how was the diversity of meet-eating dinosaurs in several ecosystems of the world, principaly in the Early Cretaceous.

    In the chapter ‘ecosystem’ of my website, I have to describe the fauna surrounding Baryonyx walkeri. Thanks to your post, I just learned of there are two different groups in the ‘wealdian’ of England, the Weald Clay Groug and the Wealden Group (with the Wessex Formation). According to you, both have Baryonychinae, the first one having Baryonyx walkeri. What are the saurischians and the ornithischians that lived in those ecosystems? Do the groups differ significantly in term of biocoenosis?
    Thank you very much.

  23. #23 Darren Naish
    June 15, 2009

    Thanks for all for comments, congratulations etc. In comment 9, Jorge asks…

    So when/how does one decide it is better to publish on the material available, or just wait for better material to be found?

    Good question, and I guess this depends on personal preference. My personal opinion is that you should publish on something as soon as you think it worthy of note. After all, if you’re waiting for better material, you might be waiting for a very long time.

    In comment 14, Michael says…

    Ugh. I always HATED that name, Xenoposeidon.

    Hmm. Methinks you ought to check out the authorships of the name, Michael :)

    In comment 18, Richard said…

    Lastly I note that you call Torvosaurus a Spinosauroid and Kryptops a Ceratosaur. I assume you do so on the basis of phylogeny however it raises for me a question concerning group names. I know that you can use any inclusive clade / grade to describe an animal but it seems a bit misleading to call Torvosaurus a Spinosauroid considering how very un-spinosaur it is (compared to Baryonyx etc). Is it not better to call it a Torvosaur or is that name out of usage nowadays? Also I tended to think of Kryptops as an Abelisaur. I know the names you used are valid but the changing usage of similar names (especially when the difference is oid and id) causes much confusion in the non-scientific community.

    The good thing (or is it the bad thing?) about using vernacular names for taxa is that there is not necessarily any consistency. So, I can call Carnotaurus, say, an abelisaurid, an abelisauroid, an abelisaur, or even an abelisaurian, but I can also call it a neoceratosaur or a ceratosaur if I want to. In this case, I decided to refer to the larger group to which the taxon belonged. So, Ceratosaurus is a ceratosaur (as in, a member of the clade that includes ceratosaurids and abelisauroids), and Torvosaurus is a spinosauroid (Spinosauroidea includes Megalosauridae and Spinosauridae).

    To Christophe (comment 22): there are actually three groups within the Wealden Supergroup (the Hastings Beds Group, Weald Clay Group, and Wealden Group). Baryonychine remains are found throughout the entire 20-30 million years of the Wealden, from the oldest part of the Hastings Beds Group to the youngest units of the Weald Clay and Wealden groups (see Naish & Martill 2007 – cited above – and refs therein).

    So much more to talk about, but I gotta go. Am particularly interested in Andrea’s comment (no. 5) about when to name, and when not to name. An issue deserving of a whole article on its own…

  24. #24 Michael Erickson
    June 15, 2009

    Um, let me check the authorship.. let’s see here… OH MY GOSH! OH NO! *faints, wakes up after 15 minutes* By the way, did I mention it was a wonderful, beautiful, awesome name, the best ever given to a sauropod? I mean, come on, it doesn’t get any better. Xenoposeidon. Really, I LOVE it! Oh, and before you automatically delete all other comemnts from me, can I mention how much I love the name Eotyrannus?

  25. #25 Michael Erickson
    June 15, 2009

    Eotyrannus and Xenoposeidon, can’t get enough of those names. Gosh. Love ‘em.

  26. #26 Michael Erickson
    June 15, 2009

    Why can’t other dinosaurs have names as stupedously great as Xenoposeidon?

  27. #27 Michael Erickson
    June 15, 2009

    *cowers in fear* Please don’t hurt me..

  28. #28 David Marjanović
    June 15, 2009

    I mean, what the !@$#&@# is up with that?

    Well, it’s strange, it’s an earth-shaker, and it’s decidedly not a lizard, sooooo…

    Now we’ve got to call the clade it belongs to the Xenoposeidonidae.

    Only if we want to call it a family and have it be valid under the ICZN.

    And that’s simple to avoid. :-)

    Oh, and don’t even get me started on Xiongguanlong

    You’re just saying that because you don’t know how to pronounce it. =8-)

  29. #29 Michael Erickson
    June 15, 2009

    What would we call the clade then, if not Xenoposeidonidae?

    “You’re just saying that because you don’t know how to pronounce it. =8-)”

    SHEE-ahng-GWAHN-long. Right, smarty-pants? ;-)

  30. #30 Zach Miller
    June 15, 2009

    Ah, I’ve been saying “ZHOO (rhymes with “shoe”)-on-GOO-on-LONG.” I wish scientific papers included pronunciation guides. ;-)

  31. #31 Michael Erickson
    June 15, 2009

    Don’t I know it, buddy. I used to call Beipiaosaurus BEE-uh-PEE-uh-oh-SORE-us. Dang. :-)

  32. #32 Michael Erickson
    June 15, 2009

    Danggit, the smiley face didn’t work. :-)
    There we go.

  33. #33 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
    June 15, 2009

    I’ve thought of it as “Shwawn-gwawn-long”… Hopefully someone from the naming team can set us straight.

  34. #34 Michael Erickson
    June 15, 2009

    THOMAS R. HOLTZ JR.! I’m in the presence of a true great. If only autographs could be given through here..

  35. #35 Michael Erickson
    June 16, 2009

    Oops, almost forgot. Congrats for the paper, Darren!

    (Oh, and I checked the authorships of the name. You can read what ensued in comments 24 – 27…)

  36. #36 Colin Swift
    June 16, 2009

    How I pine (pinus?) for the good old days, when a passing familiarity with the pronunciation rules of ancient Greek and Latin was all that one needed to pronounce the vast majority of Linnaean binomials… (not to mention the sometimes lyrical translations that resulted) Consequently, I’m quite OK with Sauroposeidon, Angloposeidon, Xenoposeidon etc, as the ‘poseidon’ reference brings back fond memories of the original Thunder Lizard Brontosaurus. Now one needs to speak almost every language known to humankind. Eurocentric? Admittedly, perhaps…
    Actually, following that line of thought: as for the current plethora of Chinese ‘dragons’ and how to pronounce them, isn’t the Chinese ‘long’ actually pronounced more like the English ‘lung?’

  37. #37 chiropter
    June 16, 2009

    Good stuff. BTW, about multiple top predators being normal- look at north america until 10,000 years ago. Short faced bear, wolves, dire wolves, cave lions, grizzly bears, black bears, saber tooth cats, jaguars, polar bears, pumas, American cheetah, not to mention the crocodilians. Of course not all overlapped in range, but probably at least some habitats had 10 of those twelve or so.

  38. #38 Michael Erickson
    June 16, 2009

    Oh, and Darren, I have a cofession to make – the reason I hated Xenoposeidon is because I don’t know how to pronounce it, especially that “x”. Help?

  39. #39 Andreas Johansson
    June 16, 2009

    From the Xenoposeidon paper: “Intended pronunciation: ZEE-no-puh-SYE-d’n.”

    (I do dread the day the pronunciation of scientific names is standardized across languages – both “xeno-” and “Poseidon” have well-established pronunciations in my native Swedish, and running them together doesn’t yield anything close to “ZEE-no-puh-SYE-d’n”! Similarly for other European languages.)

  40. #40 Hai~Ren
    June 16, 2009

    It’s always quite amusing to see others struggling with pronunciation of Chinese names.

    As an ethnic Chinese who has received 12 years of formal education in the usage of written Chinese (and spoken Mandarin), lives in a country where 75% of its citizens are Chinese, and where Mandarin and several other dialects are in very widespread use, I have no problems dealing with names like Xiongguanlong, Shaochilong and Beipiaosaurus.

    Zach: A pronunciation guide for dinosaurs with Chinese names wouldn’t help much, because it would probably be in pinyin, the Romanization system for Mandarin. I don’t think you would be able to understand how to interpret xing guān lng* (Which is how Xiongguanlong would appear in pinyin) unless you knew how pinyin applies to pronunciation of Chinese characters.

    The best way to pronounce these names would be to find out the dinosaur’s name in Chinese, and then use a text-to-audio program or site to help you figure out the pronunciation.

    I can recommend this link, which helps you translate Chinese characters, and also lets you hear how these characters are pronounced in Mandarin. It won’t process entire dinosaur names, so you’ll have to do it character by character, but it’s the best I’ve managed to find so far.

    http://www.chinese-tools.com/tools/dictionary.html

    *Keeping my fingers crossed that the HTML code for letters with accents works properly here on the Scienceblogs publishing platform; I’m aware of the problems others have faced with umlauts.

  41. #41 Hai~Ren
    June 16, 2009

    I was going to post a bunch of dinosaur names written in Chinese, but now I’m wondering if Scienceblogs supports Chinese characters. Oh well, here’s a test:

    Beishanlong: 北山龙 (b?i shān lóng)

    Xiongguanlong: 雄关龙 (xing guān lóng)

  42. #42 Hai~Ren
    June 16, 2009

    Another test to see if Scienceblogs supports accents without having to use the HTML code…

    辽宁 (liáo níng; Liaoning)

  43. #43 Andrea Cau
    June 16, 2009

    But… should these names be spelled in Latin, regardless of the origin of part of their words?

    Regardless of their Chinese or Native American or Italian original meaning, and regardless of their original spelling, the scientific names are Latin neologism, so they have to be spelled following the standard Latin spelling.

    Am I right or not?

  44. #44 Andreas Johansson
    June 16, 2009

    The ICZN does not demand Latin or latinized spelling, only that the names be “pronounceable”.

  45. #45 David Marjanović
    June 16, 2009

    SHEE-ahng-GWAHN-long. Right, smarty-pants? ;-)

    The xiong part is a single syllable.

    Only Americans ever confuse a and o. Here, the main vowel in that syllable is very close to “oo”, though it’s at least as close to the French ô if you know what I mean. This also holds for long and every other -ong. That’s also part of the reason why the surname Song of certain historical personalities is usually spelled “Soong” in English.

    (It’s also nasal, but never mind.)

    “Sh” is close enough for the x (there’s nothing else to confuse it with), but if you really want to get it right (in a Beijing or CCTV accent), it gets difficult to explain. Bending your tongue into a semicircle so that the tip sits behind the incisors of the lower jaw is involved.

    Finally, as comment 41 helpfully mentions, the syllable has an inbuilt question mark. Yay, tones.

    Piao is a single syllable, too. It’s got a triphthong. And an inbuilt exclamation mark (it’s piào).

    isn’t the Chinese ‘long’ actually pronounced more like the English ‘lung?’

    Only if you’re a Yorkshire- or Scotsman… and even then it’s not very close.

    the pronunciation rules of ancient Greek and Latin

    Which ones? B-) B-) B-) Depending on one’s native language and the time and place one went to school, different people pronounce Latin in very different ways, and similar things are going on with Greek.

    Similarly for other European languages.

    Quite so. For example, in German I wouldn’t dream of ever pronouncing x as anything other than [ks]. The ultimate reason for this is that German words can begin with [ts] while English ones can’t…

    Another test to see if Scienceblogs supports accents without having to use the HTML code…

    Did you give up? Because both the characters and the Pinyin came through without problems both times. Maybe you need to set the encoding of this page to “Unicode (UTF-8)”.

    ————

    The ICZN demands Latin letters (limited to the nowadays basic 26), and it demands that names be “pronounceable” — without even trying to define that term. Probably this is just intended to discourage people from giving random letter combinations as names.

  46. #46 David Marjanović
    June 16, 2009

    the scientific names are Latin neologism[s]

    Under the ICBN perhaps, but not under the ICZN.

  47. #47 David Marjanović
    June 16, 2009

    the surname Song of certain historical personalities

    Actually Sóng, I think, which is also the name of a dynasty (…but not the surname of the emperors of that dynasty).

    I’ll try to post full IPA transcriptions of everything later, even though at most Mike Keesey will understand that.

  48. #48 Hai~Ren
    June 16, 2009

    Good question, Andrea! I have no idea myself. I don’t think there’s any rules per se in latinising names that are derived from other languages.

    But I would say that if one is trying to give a name based on another language, it would probably be best not to deviate too much from the original spelling. It’s a lot like how we laugh at people who get tattoos with Chinese characters but end up getting errors in the strokes that render the characters or phrases meaningless.

    There are plenty of misspellings in dinosaur names. AFAIK, I know the name for the Mongolian dromaeosaur Tsaagan is actually a misspelling of Tsagaan.

    There are also a number of dinosaur names which are spelled (and pronounced) very differently from the original Chinese names.

    Shaochilong (carcharodontosaurid): 鲨齿龙 (shā chí lóng) shark tooth dragon
    I was a little confused when this name first came out, since it didn’t exactly fit the given etymology. It appears that there’s actually an extra ‘o’ in the name; if the name were to accurately reflect the etymology, it would be “Shachilong”.

    Neimongosaurus (therizinosaurid): 内蒙古龙 (nèi méng gǔ lóng) Inner Mongolia dragon
    It’s named after Inner Mongolia, which is 内蒙古 in Chinese, 内 nèi being inner, and 蒙古 méng gǔ being Mongolia.
    If one were to name it based on the actual Chinese transcription, it ought to be “Neimenggusaurus” instead.

    Many of the dinosaurs that were described before the 1980s reflect an attempt to latinise the Chinese places that inspired the names, albeit somewhat imperfectly. Note here that when translating dinosaur names into Chinese, -saurus is converted into 龙 (lóng; dragon).

    Omeisaurus (sauropod): 峨嵋龙 (é méi lóng) Mount Emei dragon
    Mount Emei is also sometimes spelled as Mount Omei.

    Shantungosaurus (hadrosaurine): 山东龙 (shān dōng lóng) Shandong dragon
    Named after Shandong (formerly Shan-tung) Province.

    Szechuanosaurus (sinraptorid): 四川龙 (sì chuān lóng) Sichuan dragon
    Named after Sichuan (formerly Szechuan) Province.

    Tsingtaosaurus (lambeosaurine): 青岛龙 (qīng dǎo lóng) Qingdao dragon
    Named after the city of Qingdao, which was known as Tsingtao in the past.

    Yangchuanosaurus (sinraptorid): 永川龙 (yǒng chuān lóng) Yongchuan dragon
    Named after Yongchuan District.

    But my favourite name of all is Mamenchisaurus.

    Mamenchisaurus (sauropod): 马门溪龙 (mǎ mén xī lóng) Mamenchi dragon OR literally horse gate brook dragon

    Here -chi- is a transliteration of the word 溪 (xī; brook).

    Mamenchisaurus was supposed to be named after the Mamingxi (马鸣溪; mǎ míng xī) Ferry Crossing, which was close to where the holotype was discovered. 马鸣溪 is literally ‘horse neighing brook’.

    However, it seems that there was a mispronunciation by one of the authors, and the name became 马门溪 (mǎ mén xī), which means ‘horse gate brook’. So if we follow the original Mandarin pronunciation, it probably ought to be “Mamingxisaurus”.

    I think a lot of people will be scratching their heads if books and websites start mentioning that Mamenchisaurus actually means “horse gate brook dragon”…

  49. #49 David Marjanović
    June 16, 2009

    I thought Mamenchisaurus is named after a bridge, which is allegedly some qi or other?

    Yangchuanosaurus is thought to be a pun on the describer, Yang Zhongqian (best known as “C. C. Young”).

    It appears that there’s actually an extra ‘o’ in the name; if the name were to accurately reflect the etymology, it would be “Shachilong”.

    <headdesk>

    There are (tens of millions of?) people who pronounce ao almost as a – and identical to the English ah sound. Maybe that’s what’s going on here.

    If one were to name it based on the actual Chinese transcription, it ought to be “Neimenggusaurus” instead.

    And indeed this spelling appeared on the Internet several months before the publication.

    Mount Emei is also sometimes spelled as Mount Omei.

    That’s because of the local (southern) pronunciation. Also, Pinyin wasn’t invented yet.

    Shandong (formerly Shan-tung)

    That’s Pinyin vs Wade-Giles transcription. (Yang Zhongqian in Wade-Giles: Yang Chung-ch’ien. Therefore the Cs in “C. C. Young”.)

    Sichuan (formerly Szechuan)

    Wade-Giles again (Sìchuān = Sze4-ch’uan1).

    AFAIK, I know the name for the Mongolian dromaeosaur Tsaagan is actually a misspelling of Tsagaan.

    Yes, and, conversely, Tyrannosaurus bataar should actually be T. baatar. Mongolian distinguishes short and long vowels, and both can appear at any position in a word.

  50. #50 Hai~Ren
    June 16, 2009

    I thought Mamenchisaurus is named after a bridge, which is allegedly some qi or other?

    Bridge is 桥 (qiáo). I got the origin of Mamenchisaurus from this webpage by the Beijing Museum of Natural History.

    That’s Pinyin vs. Wade-Giles transcription

    Good point. It’s interesting to see how ‘official’ place names change as naming and pronunciation systems fall out of favour. Hence Peking vs. Beijing, Canton vs. Guangzhou, Jakarta vs. Batavia and Djakarta, Maluku vs. Moluccas, Bombay vs. Mumbai among others.

  51. #51 Andreas Johansson
    June 16, 2009

    I’ll try to post full IPA transcriptions of everything later, even though at most Mike Keesey will understand that.

    IPA is child’s play compared to fauxnetics like “ZEE-no-puh-SYE-d’n”. :p

  52. #52 Darren Naish
    June 16, 2009

    ‘Fauxnetics’?? Seriously, what do you suggest we do?

  53. #53 Andreas Johansson
    June 16, 2009

    ‘Fauxnetics’?? Seriously, what do you suggest we do?

    I’d like you to learn a little IPA and use that (instead of or in addition to fauxnetics). Absent that, fauxnetics is better than nothing.

    (The term, incidentally, is not of my invention – I am somewhat surprised to see it nets only ~200 Ghits, but it’s been used in certain online circles for years.)

  54. #54 Darren Naish
    June 16, 2009

    Oh, come on. I can appreciate that we native English speakers are (if I may use a horrendous over-generalisation) essentially clueless when it comes to the pronunciation of anything, but you cannot expect palaeontologists to have the knowledge, expertise or time to deal with IPA. It looks terrifying. I’ll definitely be sticking with fauxnetics. I’d be interested to know what others think.

  55. #55 Andreas Johansson
    June 16, 2009

    I don’t “expect” you to anything. I’d like if you used IPA, but then I’d like lots of things, starting with free ice cream.

  56. #56 llewelly
    June 16, 2009

    *Keeping my fingers crossed that the HTML code for letters with accents works properly here on the Scienceblogs publishing platform; I’m aware of the problems others have faced with umlauts.

    If you preview, the preview will display it correctly in the previewed comment, but the text it puts in edit box will not be what you typed. Your carefully selected html code will have been replaced with the characters it represents, which of course will not work. Thus the edit box will no longer contain what you previewed. But most people won’t notice that change. They’ll look at the preview, and think: “Looks good to me, no need to edit the stuff in the edit box, sweet!” and click “post”. It’s a horrible bug I’ve been complaining about since a month or so after Sb appeared on the web.

    So don’t preview – or if you do, replace the text in the edit box with what you really typed, especially if the preview looks good.

  57. #57 Nathan Myers
    June 16, 2009

    You’re better off using the “back” button after each use of “preview”.

  58. #58 Mark Lees
    June 16, 2009

    First, congratulations Darren. Excellent.

    This whole thing seems to have become rather focussed on pronunciation. I remember that with regard to the Botanic code we were taught that there may be more than one right way to pronounce names. Since historically scientific names were based on classical Latin and Greek, it is always acceptable to pronouce names as they would have been in classical Latin/Greek regardless of their origin. But where the name was based on a proper noun from a different language, then it is considered better to pronounce it as in that language. That only applied though to proper nouns, if the word from a non-classical language was not a proper noun it would be pronounced as in Latin/Greek whether it had been latinised or not. This was of course in relation to the pronunciation of names under the Botanic code, not ICZN, but I have always applied the same rule.

    I have no intention of learning how to pronounce names in Chinese, Mongolian, or any number of other languages, where would it stop? As it is look at the names of fossil mammal genera from Australia and South America – the number that have been published in indigenous tribal languages makes it a fools errand to keep up with all the different pronunciations. They have every right to choose those names, but should accept that however they make have preferred to hear it pronounced, classical pronounciation will also be viewed as correct.

    The bad news for Xenoposeidon Darren, is that I think you’ll find that in classical Greek ‘x’ wasn’t pronounced as ‘z’.

    But also I think it is important that we tolerate different pronunciations – as long as we all know what we are talking about. And on line, pronunciation doesn’t make a lot of difference anyway does it?

  59. #59 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
    June 16, 2009

    Actually, I do not know if we should be applying classical pronunciation of Greek and Latin for taxonomic names anyway. The reason for the convention was that Latin was the current language of scholarship in the Western World in the late Middle Ages through the mid-18th century. Towards that end, a late neo-Latin pronunciation would probably far more appropriate than a classical one: the language of Linnaeus, Steno, and Copernicus rather than Caesar, Cicero, and Virgil.

  60. #60 Andreas Johansson
    June 16, 2009

    Thing is, Neo-Latin has a great many different traditions of pronounciation (roughly one for every major vernacular language of western and central Europe). That’s basically why Darren says “ZEE-no-puh-SYE-d’n” whereas I’d say something I don’t care to try and reduce to English-based fauxnetics (suffice to say every vowel is different); he’s following an English-based tradition and I a Swedish-based one.

  61. #61 Nathan Myers
    June 16, 2009

    It’s long past time to switch to numbers and nicknames.

  62. #62 Michael P. Taylor
    June 16, 2009

    On fauxnetics and other such matters … I don’t much care whether ancients Greeks would have pronounced Xenoposeidon the way we say to pronounce it; but I do feel that, since we took the trouble to spell it out (albeit not in IPA), people ought to follow our stated pronunciation. It’s not that I’m precious about it for its own sake, I just want consistency. I remember sitting in a lecture theatre in Oxford at SVPCA 2004 (I think), listening to Andreas Christian talking about neck posture in a dinosaur called something like “Oy-uh-LOFF-us”, and assuming it was some kind of lambeosaurine, only to realise late on in the talk that he was referring to Euhelopus, which I’ve been pronouncing “Yoo-hell-OH-pus”. And don’t even get my started on You Say Dip-loh-d’-SYE-dee, I Say Dip-LOD-uh-kid-ay.

    So a plea to everyone who names a new animal: please include some fauxnetics (or IPA if you insist) in the etymology section.

    (All this talk of IPA is making me thirsty.)

  63. #63 David Marjanović
    June 16, 2009

    It’s long past time to switch to numbers and nicknames.

    I use “Archie” instead of Archaeopteryx at every occasion.

    It looks terrifying.

    Most of it consists of sounds that are not likely to ever occur in a dinosaur name, though…

    BTW, a few symbols are traditionally taught (in drive-by mode) when English is taught as a foreign language, because the English spelling system isn’t obvious enough on its own. For me that meant the fifth year of school.

    This is a good introduction to all symbols that are needed to transcribe most kinds of English; unfortunately it uses workarounds for the IPA symbols most of the time in order to make sure that not everything is lost if your browser is too stupid for Unicode.

    “It is fairly technical, but that can’t be helped: attempts to explain details like this purely in terms of ‘hard TH’ and ‘long A sounds’ just spread confusion.”

  64. #64 David Marjanović
    June 16, 2009

    I remember sitting in a lecture theatre in Oxford at SVPCA 2004 (I think), listening to Andreas Christian talking about neck posture in a dinosaur called something like “Oy-uh-LOFF-us”, and assuming it was some kind of lambeosaurine, only to realise late on in the talk that he was referring to Euhelopus, which I’ve been pronouncing “Yoo-hell-OH-pus”.

    He must be majorly dyslexic — obviously he really believed it was spelled with ph!

    However, I’d bet money that he pronounced the h. There is no H-dropping dialect of German.

    (All this talk of IPA is making me thirsty.)

    For non-Brits: India Pale Ale.

    As you can see from the page I just linked to, the British linguists have an in-joke about “Real IPA”…

  65. #65 Michael Erickson
    June 16, 2009

    “It’s long past time to switch to numbers and nicknames.”

    I used to (and still sometimes) refer to Brachiosaurus as Brachi, and lately I’ve been calling Majungasaurus Majungee.

  66. #66 chiropter
    June 16, 2009

    This may be kind of taking it in a different direction, but regarding number of (very) large carnivores in the Wealden supergroup, I too wonder if the large standing stock of prey has something to do with it, and whether that large standng stock is itself exceptional compared to mammals, perhaps due to lighter bone construction, more efficient feeding apparatus, or efficient gigantothermic metabolism on the part of the herbivores. Or, is it simply because everyone had a slower metabolism, so everyone got bigger? Not sure if Darren’s blogged about this before but the Carbone et al. 2007 PLoS paperhttp://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050022 suggests a 1-ton upper limit for mammalian predators (presumably referring to carnivores) based on energy tradeoffs of catching vs eating large game, and notes that large theropods may have the total metabolic rate of a 1 ton mammal.
    Of course, there are exceptions- um, killer whales anyone? I know, they swim instead of walk, but so what are the (putative) special circumstances that allowed theropod predators to get so big? Simply low metabolic rate?

  67. #67 chiropter
    June 17, 2009

    rereading that comment, and I have no idea why i wrote ‘presumably referring to carnivores’, just so you know

  68. #68 Dartian
    June 17, 2009

    Thomas:

    Actually, I do not know if we should be applying classical pronunciation of Greek and Latin for taxonomic names anyway.

    Greek an’ Latin hae hud their day. Let’s switch tae usin’ Scottish pronoonciation in biology.

    Nae takers? Weel, it was jist a suggestion.

  69. #69 Mark Lees
    June 17, 2009

    When authors provide a pronunciation guide when they publish a new taxon that can be useful, but it can only ever be their preference, it cannot be the absolute statement of what is the right pronunciation. They cannot expect that everyone who uses the name they have published will have read their paper with the pronunciation guide, and also they may have chosen an idiosyncratic pronunciation. Let’s say they publish ‘Newthingyosaurus’ and want it pronounced ‘iploogiseedun’ – obviously nonsense, but some people’s mutilation of Latin can sound just as bad. Clearly author’s cannot have carte blanche to decide how a name sould be pronounced.

    As for understanding the IPA – there are numerous benefits do doing that – it is time well spent.

    And Latin, well I had to learn it at school (compulsory for two years, optional after that) and that wasn’t that long ago (ok, about 30 years, but it doesn’t feel that long ago). I just think that this shows the shocking lack of classical education in kids today :) – If you haven’t been subjected to “Caecilius est pater…” you haven’t lived.

  70. #70 Darren Naish
    June 17, 2009

    I also studied Latin at school, but I was too busy messing around with stag beetles and drawing dinosaurs to remember much of it. The text books we used, however, do mean that that episode of Dr Who set in Pompeii did have special resonance…

    Hmm, I seem to have destroyed my banner.

  71. #71 Christopher Taylor
    June 17, 2009

    No, it’s just that it’s currently only visible in the fourth dimension.

    (Wait a minute, that one’s arguably true…)

  72. #72 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
    June 17, 2009

    Dartian,

    How about we agree upon using ‘Strine?

    Or better yet, Pirate!! (aka Buccanese).

  73. #73 David Marjanović
    June 17, 2009

    Or, is it simply because everyone had a slower metabolism, so everyone got bigger?

    How does that work? Century-long lifespans? Fast growth requires lots of energy, after all.

    a 1-ton upper limit for mammalian predators […] based on energy tradeoffs of catching vs eating large game

    Does “catch” really apply to “sauropod”…?

    Greek an’ Latin hae hud their day. Let’s switch tae usin’ Scottish pronoonciation in biology.

    Yay ichthyosaurs and carcharodontosaurids!!!

    Seriously, I like it. :-)

    Or better yet, Pirate!!

    ARRRRRRchosaurs rule, as their name already says twice over.

    If you haven’t been subjected to “Caecilius est pater…” you haven’t lived.

    Whut? Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quam unam incolunt Belgae… Aurea prima sata est aetas, quae vindice nullo / sponte sua sine rege fidem rectumque colebat. / Poena metusque aberant, nec verba minantia fixo… manus ecfututas pande… where is “caecilius est pater” from?

  74. #74 Mark Lees
    June 17, 2009

    David, “Caecilius est pater”, is unfortunately not from one of the classics I’m afraid, not Horace, or Juvenal, and definitley not Marcus Aurelius, it was from the text books (booklets really) they taught us Latin from back in the 70s in the UK. The series were known as the Cambridge Latin Course, and from the reference Darren makes to the Dr Who episode, it sounds like they were the same text books he was taught from. According to the website they are still running it now – but the books look miles ahead of the dull orange booklets I had to use.

    I think that “Caecilius est pater” were the first words in the first booklet.

  75. #75 Matt Wedel
    June 17, 2009

    what are the (putative) special circumstances that allowed theropod predators to get so big?

    Ready availability of big prey? I’ve always thought that focusing the “Why did X get so big?” discussion on predatory theropods was missing the point; the answer almost certainly lies upstream ecologically.

    That’s if you even accept that “Why did X get so big?” is a valid question. I prefer to ask, “Why are stinkin’ mammals so small?”, to which there are two front-runners: disadvantageous reproductive scaling, and stopping to chew their food. Big whales cheat by eating nothing but protein and fat and not chewing that.

  76. #76 chiropter
    June 17, 2009

    Matt- I would add that whales (predatory not filter feeders) are also enjoying the bounty of high productivity and economies of scale of the ocean– supposedly something like that leads to larger fish in the ocean than freshwater typically…-you just need a critical mass of production in a given habitat for enough energy to filter up to huge predators? But yours is a good question and this doesn’t really answer it, because the theropod-herbivore food chain obviously doesn’t have many links. Why did the arms race go so far?

  77. #77 chiropter
    June 18, 2009

    What do you mean by disadvantageous reproductive scaling? And can you provide any references looking at the energetic cost of chewing? I hadn’t really thought of that as being a major time or energy sink, but perhaps it is, since it’s time that could have been spent ingesting more food.
    As far as big whales, no whales, either predatory or filter feeder, stop to chew, but then again, chewing is certainly not a major time sink for most large mammalian predators, since they spend most of their time resting/failing to catch prey. Still none approach the size of the largest predatory whales, so we still have two scenarios that need explaining, large theropods (or perhaps by extension large herbivorous dinos) and large predatory whales.

  78. #78 chiropter
    June 18, 2009

    although as you said the key thing is the prey animals stop to chew in the case of mammals, so don’t get as large, and prey determines predator size. But I generally assumed it must have been some arms race between preds and prey, that for some reason the dinosaurs were able to take to another level

  79. #79 Mike from Ottawa
    June 18, 2009

    As that nice Mrs Simpson said ‘You can never be too rich or too thin or have too many big theropods.’

  80. #80 chiropter
    June 21, 2009

    BTW, Matt, if predator size is just due to prey size you still have to account why, with two or three exceptions, mammalian predators were never near big enough to take down the largest herbivores of their era as adults, such as Megatherium, proboscideans, etc. I’m not convinced this is it

  81. #81 David Marjanović
    June 27, 2009

    with two or three exceptions, mammalian predators were never near big enough to take down the largest herbivores of their era as adults, such as Megatherium, proboscideans, etc.

    Remember the elephant-eating lions of Tsavo? Now imagine them with saber teeth. And wait for the paper on Xenosmilus and (amazingly) that nimravid on which it converged.

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