Dinosaurs -- Foraging -- ecology, Dinosaurs--Behavior
Dinosaur foraging ecology has been the subject of scientific interest for decades, yet much of what we understand about it remains hypothetical. We wrote an agent-based model (ABM) to simulate meat energy sources present in dinosaur environments, including carcasses of giant sauropods, along with living, huntable prey. Theropod dinosaurs modeled in this environment (specifically allosauroids, and more particularly, Allosaurus Marsh, 1877) were instantiated with heritable traits favorable to either hunting success or scavenging success. If hunter phenotypes were more reproductively successful, their traits were propagated into the population through their offspring, resulting in predator specialists. If selective pressure favored scavenger phenotypes, the population would evolve to acquire most of their calories from carrion. Data generated from this model strongly suggest that theropods in sauropod-dominated systems evolved to detect carcasses, consume and store large quantities of fat, and dominate carcass sites. Broadly speaking, selective forces did not favor predatory adaptations, because sauropod carrion resource pools, as we modeled them, were too profitable for prey-based resource pools to be significant. This is the first research to test selective pressure patterns in dinosaurs, and the first to estimate theropod mass based on metabolic constraints.
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Pahl, C. C., & Ruedas, L. A. (2023). Big boned: How fat storage and other adaptations influenced large theropod foraging ecology. Plos one, 18(11), e0290459.