Saturday, July 27, 2013

Kem-Kem Returns!!! and The Commensal Dinosaur

Here is a cool video on the Kem-Kem by RaptorX over at Mesozoic Archives where he also has a recent post on Pacific Rim stuff and the Kem-Kem. Evidently there is a new paper out, but it is behind a pay-wall- boo. Unbalanced Food Web in a Late Cretaceous Dinosaur Assemblage.

O course the Kem-Kem is one of my favorite Mesozoic paleo-environments and I blogged about it way back here in Planet Predator II- Kem-Kem. Overall, it appears the paper supports the notion that Dale Russel championed of a largely aquatic-based food web.

Like Laramidian dino-paleoecology, which I went after here, much of the discussion on the Kem-Kem
is couched in language of competition such as "Ermahgerd!!! How did the theropods survive together in such diversity without loads of massive sauropods to chomp into in the Kem-Kem?!?"

Sometimes I think we fall in love with the #awesomebro #dinomania notion of dinosaurs as these all- consuming, supremely dominant, fantastical dragon-monsters when in reality they were just animals working in an ecosystem with other animals. Competition, niche-partitioning were certainly happening but also commensal relationships- relationships where a certain type or suite of animal actually helps/enhances the ecological conditions for other animals- were certainly present and, in my opinion, largely ignored in discussions of dinosaurian paleo-ecolgy. In the case of the Kem-Kem I believe spinosaurs provided opportunities for less efficient fish-catching theropods to scavenge/pilfer remains in a kleptoparasitic relationship. And in Laramidia I believe ceratopsids acted as giant terrestrial parrot/beavers* falling trees, creating edge habitats, and benefitting all manner of sympatric dino species through their habitat modifications.

So instead of imagining dinos as these hyper-competitive, Kaiju sci-fi, monster-beasts perpetually at war with themselves and competitors- we can also imagine them as helping each other out- ecologically speaking.


* New data on ceratopsid biting mechanics has come to light and changed my view on ceratopsids chewing through trees

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