STL Science Center

STL Science Center

06 February 2016

Being Raptorial

(C) Emily Willoughby
There are a number of papers in publicationon the hunting methods employed by extant raptorial species. Falcons are neck biters; that is to say they tend to known their prey out of the sky (they are often bird eaters) or subdue their quarry in other means and they then break the necks of their prey with the beak and its rigid tomial tooth. Hawks are known asphyxiaters; they stand on their subdued prey's chest to slowly suffocate if they are too large to eat in a single bite or swallow. Dakotaraptor was considerably large, even as far as the largest dromaeosaurs were concerned. Possessing the ability to hunt alone, but also possibly in packs, Dakotaraptor was capable of bringing down large prey items with its large hindclaws, but would have had difficulty subduing animals with its lightly built skull. The teeth of dromaeosaurs are typically well suited to tearing flesh, but are not built for strength in terms of holding prey down. A popular hypothesis that has arisen in the past year concerning Dakotaraptor is that the dinosaur acted more like a hawk than it did like a falcon in regards to killing prey it chased down and incapacitated. That means that in this hypothetical situation Dakotaraptor would have chased down its prey, potentially eviscerated it but certainly took it off its feet, and is now standing on its thoracic area in an effort to suffocate it prior to eating it. We can see that this particular animal has definitely taken a few feathers off of the dinosaur it has captured and started to feed. To continue the analogy, a hawk-like Dakotaraptor may actually be plucking its prey in this image. The behavior has been heavily documented, and I can add my personal observations to this, in Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks, among many other species of birding hawks. The fact that this kind of behavior is heavily witnessed in extant species that kill their prey in a hypothesized manner used by an extinct species does not necessarily mean the hypothesis is correct or that the extinct species also exhibited other behaviors of the extant species. However, if the parallels drawn are correct, then we may just know an awful lot more about Dakotaraptor than we know about quite a large number of other dinosaurs that have been known to science an awful lot longer.

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