A very long neck that is apparently suitable for feeding at great heights is a characteristic feature of most sauropod dinosaurs. Yet, it remains controversial whether any sauropods actually raised their necks high. Recently, strong physiological arguments have been put forward against the idea of high-browsing sauropods, because of the very high blood pressure that appears to be inevitable when the head is located several metres above the heart. For the sauropod Euhelopus zdanskyi, however, biomechanical evidence clearly indicates high browsing. Energy expenditure owing to high browsing is compared with energy costs for walking a distance. It is demonstrated for Euhelopus as well as for the much larger Brachiosaurus that despite an increase in the metabolic rate, high browsing was worthwhile for a sauropod if resources were far apart.
sauropod; dinosaur; neck; feeding; energy expenditures
A very long neck is a characteristic feature of most sauropod dinosaurs. In the genus Mamenchisaurus, neck length is extreme, greater than 40 percent of total body length. However, the posture, utilization, and selective advantage of very long necks in sauropods are still controversial. An excellently preserved skeleton of Mamenchisaurus youngi, including a complete neck, provides an opportunity for a comprehensive biomechanical analysis of neck posture and mobility. The biomechanical evidence indicates that Mamenchisaurus youngi had a nearly straight, near horizontal neck posture and browsed at low or medium heights. The results differ from the findings for some other sauropod species, like Euhelopus, Diplodocus, and Giraffatitan (Brachiosaurus) that had been analyzed in previous studies with similar methods. The selective advantage of extreme neck length in sauropods is likely advantageous for different feeding strategies.
The flexibility and posture of the neck in sauropod dinosaurs has long been contentious. Improved constraints on sauropod neck function will have major implications for what we know of their foraging strategies, ecology and overall biology. Several hypotheses have been proposed, based primarily on osteological data, suggesting different degrees of neck flexibility. This study attempts to assess the effects of reconstructed soft tissues on sauropod neck flexibility through systematic removal of muscle groups and measures of flexibility of the neck in a living analogue, the ostrich (Struthio camelus). The possible effect of cartilage on flexibility is also examined, as this was previously overlooked in osteological estimates of sauropod neck function. These comparisons show that soft tissues are likely to have limited the flexibility of the neck beyond the limits suggested by osteology alone. In addition, the inferred presence of cartilage, and varying the inter-vertebral spacing within the synovial capsule, also affect neck flexibility. One hypothesis proposed that flexibility is constrained by requiring a minimum overlap between successive zygapophyses equivalent to 50% of zygapophyseal articular surface length (ONP50). This assumption is tested by comparing the maximum flexibility of the articulated cervical column in ONP50 and the flexibility of the complete neck with all tissues intact. It is found that this model does not adequately convey the pattern of flexibility in the ostrich neck, suggesting that the ONP50 model may not be useful in determining neck function if considered in isolation from myological and other soft tissue data.
The long necks of gigantic sauropod dinosaurs are commonly assumed to have been used for high browsing to obtain enough food. However, this analysis questions whether such a posture was reasonable from the standpoint of energetics. The energy cost of circulating the blood can be estimated accurately from two physiological axioms that relate metabolic rate, blood flow rate and arterial blood pressure: (i) metabolic rate is proportional to blood flow rate and (ii) cardiac work rate is proportional to the product of blood flow rate and blood pressure. The analysis shows that it would have required the animal to expend approximately half of its energy intake just to circulate the blood, primarily because a vertical neck would have required a high systemic arterial blood pressure. It is therefore energetically more feasible to have used a more or less horizontal neck to enable wide browsing while keeping blood pressure low.
dinosaur; sauropod; blood pressure; circulation; neck; feeding height
Theory states that an optimal forager should exploit a patch so long as its harvest rate of resources from the patch exceeds its energetic, predation, and missed opportunity costs for foraging. However, for many foragers, predation is not the only source of danger they face while foraging. Foragers also face the risk of injuring themselves. To test whether risk of injury gives rise to a foraging cost, we offered red foxes pairs of depletable resource patches in which they experienced diminishing returns. The resource patches were identical in all respects, save for the risk of injury. In response, the foxes exploited the safe patches more intensively. They foraged for a longer time and also removed more food (i.e., had lower giving up densities) in the safe patches compared to the risky patches. Although they never sustained injury, video footage revealed that the foxes used greater care while foraging from the risky patches and removed food at a slower rate. Furthermore, an increase in their hunger state led foxes to allocate more time to foraging from the risky patches, thereby exposing themselves to higher risks. Our results suggest that foxes treat risk of injury as a foraging cost and use time allocation and daring—the willingness to risk injury—as tools for managing their risk of injury while foraging. This is the first study, to our knowledge, which explicitly tests and shows that risk of injury is indeed a foraging cost. While nearly all foragers may face an injury cost of foraging, we suggest that this cost will be largest and most important for predators.
Foraging theory; Optimal patch use; Predator–prey interactions; Red foxes; Daring
Stegosaurian dinosaurs have a quadrupedal stance, short forelimbs, short necks, and are generally considered to be low browsers. A new stegosaur, Miragaia longicollum gen. et sp. nov., from the Late Jurassic of Portugal, has a neck comprising at least 17 cervical vertebrae. This is eight additional cervical vertebrae when compared with the ancestral condition seen in basal ornithischians such as Scutellosaurus. Miragaia has a higher cervical count than most of the iconically long-necked sauropod dinosaurs. Long neck length has been achieved by ‘cervicalization’ of anterior dorsal vertebrae and probable lengthening of centra. All these anatomical features are evolutionarily convergent with those exhibited in the necks of sauropod dinosaurs. Miragaia longicollum is based upon a partial articulated skeleton, and includes the only known cranial remains from any European stegosaur. A well-resolved phylogeny supports a new clade that unites Miragaia and Dacentrurus as the sister group to Stegosaurus; this new topology challenges the common view of Dacentrurus as a basal stegosaur.
Stegosaurian dinosaurs; Miragaia longicollum; Dacentrurus; neck elongation; niche partitioning; sexual selection
Hypothesized upright neck postures in sauropod dinosaurs require systemic arterial blood pressures reaching 700 mmHg at the heart. Recent data on ventricular wall stress indicate that their left ventricles would have weighed 15 times those of similarly sized whales. Such dimensionally, energetically and mechanically disadvantageous ventricles were highly unlikely in an endothermic sauropod. Accessory hearts or a siphon mechanism, with sub-atmospheric blood pressures in the head, were also not feasible. If the blood flow requirements of sauropods were typical of ectotherms, the left-ventricular blood volume and mass would have been smaller; nevertheless, the heart would have suffered the serious mechanical disadvantage of thick walls. It is doubtful that any large sauropod could have raised its neck vertically and endured high arterial blood pressure, and it certainly could not if it had high metabolic rates characteristic of endotherms.
The necks of the sauropod dinosaurs reached 15 m in length: six times longer than that of the world record giraffe and five times longer than those of all other terrestrial animals. Several anatomical features enabled this extreme elongation, including: absolutely large body size and quadrupedal stance providing a stable platform for a long neck; a small, light head that did not orally process food; cervical vertebrae that were both numerous and individually elongate; an efficient air-sac-based respiratory system; and distinctive cervical architecture. Relevant features of sauropod cervical vertebrae include: pneumatic chambers that enabled the bone to be positioned in a mechanically efficient way within the envelope; and muscular attachments of varying importance to the neural spines, epipophyses and cervical ribs. Other long-necked tetrapods lacked important features of sauropods, preventing the evolution of longer necks: for example, giraffes have relatively small torsos and large, heavy heads, share the usual mammalian constraint of only seven cervical vertebrae, and lack an air-sac system and pneumatic bones. Among non-sauropods, their saurischian relatives the theropod dinosaurs seem to have been best placed to evolve long necks, and indeed their necks probably surpassed those of giraffes. But 150 million years of evolution did not suffice for them to exceed a relatively modest 2.5 m.
Sauropod; Giraffe; Dinosaur; Evolution; Cervical vertebra; Neck
Chronic exposure to food of low quality may exert conflicting selection pressures on foraging behaviour. On the one hand, more active search behaviour may allow the animal to find patches with slightly better, or more, food; on the other hand, such active foraging is energetically costly, and thus may be opposed by selection for energetic efficiency. Here, we test these alternative hypotheses in Drosophila larvae. We show that populations which experimentally evolved improved tolerance to larval chronic malnutrition have shorter foraging path length than unselected control populations. A behavioural polymorphism in foraging path length (the rover–sitter polymorphism) exists in nature and is attributed to the foraging locus (for). We show that a sitter strain (fors2) survives better on the poor food than the rover strain (forR), confirming that the sitter foraging strategy is advantageous under malnutrition. Larvae of the selected and control populations did not differ in global for expression. However, a quantitative complementation test suggests that the for locus may have contributed to the adaptation to poor food in one of the selected populations, either through a change in for allele frequencies, or by interacting epistatically with alleles at other loci. Irrespective of its genetic basis, our results provide two independent lines of evidence that sitter-like foraging behaviour is favoured under chronic larval malnutrition.
competition; experimental evolution; feeding; nutritional stress; PKG; rover–sitter
Sauropod dinosaur bones are common in Mesozoic terrestrial sediments, but sauropod skulls are exceedingly rare—cranial materials are known for less than one third of sauropod genera and even fewer are known from complete skulls. Here we describe the first complete sauropod skull from the Cretaceous of the Americas, Abydosaurus mcintoshi, n. gen., n. sp., known from 104.46 ± 0.95 Ma (megannum) sediments from Dinosaur National Monument, USA. Abydosaurus shares close ancestry with Brachiosaurus, which appeared in the fossil record ca. 45 million years earlier and had substantially broader teeth. A survey of tooth shape in sauropodomorphs demonstrates that sauropods evolved broad crowns during the Early Jurassic but did not evolve narrow crowns until the Late Jurassic, when they occupied their greatest range of crown breadths. During the Cretaceous, brachiosaurids and other lineages independently underwent a marked diminution in tooth breadth, and before the latest Cretaceous broad-crowned sauropods were extinct on all continental landmasses. Differential survival and diversification of narrow-crowned sauropods in the Late Cretaceous appears to be a directed trend that was not correlated with changes in plant diversity or abundance, but may signal a shift towards elevated tooth replacement rates and high-wear dentition. Sauropods lacked many of the complex herbivorous adaptations present within contemporaneous ornithischian herbivores, such as beaks, cheeks, kinesis, and heterodonty. The spartan design of sauropod skulls may be related to their remarkably small size—sauropod skulls account for only 1/200th of total body volume compared to 1/30th body volume in ornithopod dinosaurs.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00114-010-0650-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Dinosauria; Sauropoda; Cretaceous; North America; Herbivory; Tooth shape
The necks of sauropod dinosaurs were a key factor in their evolution. The habitual posture and range of motion of these necks has been controversial, and computer-aided studies have argued for an obligatory sub-horizontal pose. However, such studies are compromised by their failure to take into account the important role of intervertebral cartilage. This cartilage takes very different forms in different animals. Mammals and crocodilians have intervertebral discs, while birds have synovial joints in their necks. The form and thickness of cartilage varies significantly even among closely related taxa. We cannot yet tell whether the neck joints of sauropods more closely resembled those of birds or mammals. Inspection of CT scans showed cartilage:bone ratios of 4.5% for Sauroposeidon and about 20% and 15% for two juvenile Apatosaurus individuals. In extant animals, this ratio varied from 2.59% for the rhea to 24% for a juvenile giraffe. It is not yet possible to disentangle ontogenetic and taxonomic signals, but mammal cartilage is generally three times as thick as that of birds. Our most detailed work, on a turkey, yielded a cartilage:bone ratio of 4.56%. Articular cartilage also added 11% to the length of the turkey's zygapophyseal facets. Simple image manipulation suggests that incorporating 4.56% of neck cartilage into an intervertebral joint of a turkey raises neutral posture by 15°. If this were also true of sauropods, the true neutral pose of the neck would be much higher than has been depicted. An additional 11% of zygapophyseal facet length translates to 11% more range of motion at each joint. More precise quantitative results must await detailed modelling. In summary, including cartilage in our models of sauropod necks shows that they were longer, more elevated and more flexible than previously recognised.
The long necks of sauropods have been subject to many studies regarding their posture and flexibility. Length of the neck varies among groups. Here, we investigate neck posture and morphology in several clades from a mechanical viewpoint. Emphasis is put on comparing sauropod necks and tails with structures in living archosaurs and mammals. Differences in the use made of necks and tails lead to clear-cut differences in the mechanical loads occurring in the same models. Ways of sustaining loads are identified by theoretical considerations. If the observed skeletal structures are suited to resist the estimated loading in a particular posture, this concordance is taken as an argument that this posture or movement was of importance during the life of the individual. Apart from the often-discussed bending in side view, we analyze the often overlooked torsion. Because torsional stresses in a homogenous element concentrate near the periphery, a cylindrical cross section gives greatest strength, and the direction of forces is oblique. In a vertebrate neck, during e.g. shaking the head and twisting the neck, oblique muscles, like the mm. scaleni, if activated unilaterally initiate movement, counterbalance the torsional moments and keep the joints between neck vertebrae in equilibrium. If activated bilaterally, these muscles keep the neck balanced in an energy-saving upright posture. The tendons of the mm. scaleni may have ossified as cervical ribs The long cervical ribs in brachiosaurids and mamenchisaurids seem to have limited flexibility, whereas the shorter cervical ribs in Diplodocidae allowed free movement. The tails of sauropods do not show pronounced adaptation to torsion, and seem to have been carried more or less in a horizontal, extended posture. In this respect, sauropod tails resemble the necks of herbivorous cursorial mammals. These analyses provide an improved understanding of neck use that will be extended to other sauropods in subsequent studies.
As gigantic herbivores, sauropod dinosaurs were among the most important members of Mesozoic communities. Understanding their ecology is fundamental to developing a complete picture of Jurassic and Cretaceous food webs. One group of sauropods in particular, Diplodocoidea, has long been a source of debate with regard to what and how they ate. Because of their long lineage duration (Late Jurassic-Late Cretaceous) and cosmopolitan distribution, diplodocoids formed important parts of multiple ecosystems. Additionally, fortuitous preservation of a large proportion of cranial elements makes them an ideal clade in which to examine feeding behavior.
Hypotheses of various browsing behaviors (selective and nonselective browsing at ground-height, mid-height, or in the upper canopy) were examined using snout shape (square vs. round) and dental microwear. The square snouts, large proportion of pits, and fine subparallel scratches in Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Nigersaurus, and Rebbachisaurus suggest ground-height nonselective browsing; the narrow snouts of Dicraeosaurus, Suuwassea, and Tornieria and the coarse scratches and gouges on the teeth of Dicraeosaurus suggest mid-height selective browsing in those taxa. Comparison with outgroups (Camarasaurus and Brachiosaurus) reinforces the inferences of ground- and mid-height browsing and the existence of both non-selective and selective browsing behaviors in diplodocoids.
These results reaffirm previous work suggesting the presence of diverse feeding strategies in sauropods and provide solid evidence for two different feeding behaviors in Diplodocoidea. These feeding behaviors can subsequently be tied to paleoecology, such that non-selective, ground-height behaviors are restricted to open, savanna-type environments. Selective browsing behaviors are known from multiple sauropod clades and were practiced in multiple environments.
Polished pebbles occasionally found within skeletons of giant herbivorous sauropod dinosaurs are very likely to be gastroliths (stomach stones). Here, we show that based on feeding experiments with ostriches and comparative data for relative gastrolith mass in birds, sauropod gastroliths do not represent the remains of an avian-style gastric mill. Feeding experiments with farm ostriches showed that bird gastroliths experience fast abrasion in the gizzard and do not develop a polish. Relative gastrolith mass in sauropods (gastrolith mass much less than 0.1% of body mass) is at least an order of magnitude less than that in ostriches and other herbivorous birds (gastrolith mass approximates 1% of body mass), also arguing against the presence of a gastric mill in sauropods. Sauropod dinosaurs possibly compensated for their limited oral processing and gastric trituration capabilities by greatly increasing food retention time in the digestive system. Gastrolith clusters of some derived theropod dinosaurs (oviraptorosaurs and ornithomimosaurs) compare well with those of birds, suggesting that the gastric mill evolved in the avian stem lineage.
gizzard; digestion; sauropod dinosaurs; extant birds; gastroliths
Optimal foraging theory shows how fitness-maximizing foragers can use information about patch quality to decide how to search within patches. It is amply supported by empirical studies. Nonetheless, the theory largely ignores the fact that foragers may need to search for patches as well as for the targets within them. Here, using an exact but simple mathematical argument, it is shown how foragers can use information about patch quality to facilitate the execution of Lévy walk movement patterns with μ = 2 at inter-patch scales. These movement patterns are advantageous when searching for patches that are not depleted or rejected once visited but instead remain profitable. The analytical results are verified by the results of numerical simulations. The findings bring forth an innovative theoretical synthesis of searching for and within patches and, suggest that foragers' memories may be adaptive under spatially heterogeneous reward schedules.
optimal foraging theory; Lévy walks; heterogeneous landscapes; patchy distributions
Three-dimensional digital models of 16 different sauropods were used to examine the scaling relationship between metabolism and surface areas of the whole body, the neck, and the tail in an attempt to see if the necks could have functioned as radiators for the elimination of excess body heat. The sauropod taxa sample ranged in body mass from a 639 kg juvenile Camarasaurus to a 25 t adult Brachiosaurus. Metabolism was assumed to be directly proportional to body mass raised to the ¾ power, and estimates of body mass accounted for the presence of lungs and systems of air sacs in the trunk and neck. Surface areas were determined by decomposing the model surfaces into triangles and their areas being computed by vector methods. It was found that total body surface area was almost isometric with body mass, and that it showed negative allometry when plotted against metabolic rate. In contrast, neck area showed positive allometry when plotted against metabolic rate. Tail area show negative allometry with respect to metabolic rate. The many uncertainties about the biology of sauropods, and the variety of environmental conditions that different species experienced during the groups 150 million years of existence, make it difficult to be absolutely certain about the function of the neck as a radiator. However, the functional combination of the allometric increase of neck area, the systems of air sacs in the neck and trunk, the active control of blood flow between the core and surface of the body, changing skin color, and strategic orientation of the neck with respect to wind, make it plausible that the neck could have functioned as a radiator to avoid over-heating.
Sauropod dinosaurs, the dominant herbivores throughout the Jurassic, challenge general rules of large vertebrate herbivory. With body weights surpassing those of any other megaherbivore, they relied almost exclusively on pre-angiosperm plants such as gymnosperms, ferns and fern allies as food sources, plant groups that are generally believed to be of very low nutritional quality. However, the nutritive value of these taxa is virtually unknown, despite their importance in the reconstruction of the ecology of Mesozoic herbivores. Using a feed evaluation test for extant herbivores, we show that the energy content of horsetails and of certain conifers and ferns is at a level comparable to extant browse. Based on our experimental results, plants such as Equisetum, Araucaria, Ginkgo and Angiopteris would have formed a major part of sauropod diets, while cycads, tree ferns and podocarp conifers would have been poor sources of energy. Energy-rich but slow-fermenting Araucaria, which was globally distributed in the Jurassic, was probably targeted by giant, high-browsing sauropods with their presumably very long ingesta retention times. Our data make possible a more realistic calculation of the daily food intake of an individual sauropod and improve our understanding of how large herbivorous dinosaurs could have flourished in pre-angiosperm ecosystems.
herbivorous dinosaurs; Mesozoic food plants; herbivory; nutrition
Sauropods are often imagined to have held their heads high atop necks that ascended in a sweeping curve that was formed either intrinsically because of the shape of their vertebrae, or behaviorally by lifting the head, or both. Their necks are also popularly depicted in life with poses suggesting avian flexibility. The grounds for such interpretations are examined in terms of vertebral osteology, inferences about missing soft tissues, intervertebral flexibility, and behavior. Osteologically, the pronounced opisthocoely and conformal central and zygapophyseal articular surfaces strongly constrain the reconstruction of the cervical vertebral column. The sauropod cervico-dorsal vertebral column is essentially straight, in contrast to the curvature exhibited in those extant vertebrates that naturally hold their heads above rising necks. Regarding flexibility, extant vertebrates with homologous articular geometries preserve a degree of zygapophyseal overlap at the limits of deflection, a constraint that is further restricted by soft tissues. Sauropod necks, if similarly constrained, were capable of sweeping out large feeding surfaces, yet much less capable of retracting the head to explore the enclosed volume in an avian manner. Behaviorally, modern vertebrates generally assume characteristic neck postures which are close to the intrinsic curvature of the undeflected neck. With the exception of some vertebrates that can retract their heads to balance above their shoulders at rest (e.g., felids, lagomorphs, and some ratites), the undeflected neck generally predicts the default head height at rest and during locomotion.
Existing knowledge of the tracks left by sauropod dinosaurs (loosely ‘brontosaurs’) is essentially two-dimensional, derived mainly from footprints exposed on bedding planes, but examples in the Broome Sandstone (Early Cretaceous) of Western Australia provide a complementary three-dimensional picture showing the extent to which walking sauropods could deform the ground beneath their feet. The patterns of deformation created by sauropods traversing thinly-stratified lagoonal deposits of the Broome Sandstone are unprecedented in their extent and structural complexity. The stacks of transmitted reliefs (underprints or ghost prints) beneath individual footfalls are nested into a hierarchy of deeper and more inclusive basins and troughs which eventually attain the size of minor tectonic features. Ultimately the sauropod track-makers deformed the substrate to such an extent that they remodelled the topography of the landscape they inhabited. Such patterns of substrate deformation are revealed by investigating fragmentary and eroded footprints, not by the conventional search for pristine footprints on intact bedding planes. For that reason it is not known whether similar patterns of substrate deformation might occur at sauropod track-sites elsewhere in the world.
The histology of cervical ribs of Sauropoda reveals a primary bone tissue, which largely consists of longitudinally oriented mineralized collagen fibres, essentially the same tissue as found in ossified tendons. The absence of regular periosteal bone and the dominance of longitudinal fibres contradict the ventral bracing hypothesis (VBH) postulated for sauropod necks. The VBH predicts histologically primary periosteal bone with fibres oriented perpendicular to the rib long axis, indicative of connective tissue between overlapping hyperelongated cervical ribs. The transformation of the cervical ribs into ossified tendons makes the neck more flexible and implies that tension forces acted mainly along the length of the neck. This is contrary to the VBH, which requires compressive forces along the neck. Tension forces would allow important neck muscles to shift back to the trunk region, making the neck much lighter.
Sauropoda; histology; cervical ribs; ossified tendons; neck mechanics
The pre-sacral vertebrae of most sauropod dinosaurs were surrounded by interconnected, air-filled diverticula, penetrating into the bones and creating an intricate internal cavity system within the vertebrae. Computational finite-element models of two sauropod cervical vertebrae now demonstrate the mechanical reason for vertebral pneumaticity. The analyses show that the structure of the cervical vertebrae leads to an even distribution of all occurring stress fields along the vertebrae, concentrated mainly on their external surface and the vertebral laminae. The regions between vertebral laminae and the interior part of the vertebral body including thin bony struts and septa are mostly unloaded and pneumatic structures are positioned in these regions of minimal stress. The morphology of sauropod cervical vertebrae was influenced by strongly segmented axial neck muscles, which require only small attachment areas on each vertebra, and pneumatic epithelia that are able to resorb bone that is not mechanically loaded. The interaction of these soft tissues with the bony tissue of the vertebrae produced lightweight, air-filled vertebrae in which most stresses were borne by the external cortical bone. Cervical pneumaticity was therefore an important prerequisite for neck enlargement in sauropods. Thus, we expect that vertebral pneumaticity in other parts of the body to have a similar role in enabling gigantism.
sauropoda; vertebral pneumaticity; finite-element analysis; cervical vertebrae; gigantism
Optimal foraging models predict that large predators should concentrate on large prey in order to maximize their net gain of energy intake. Here, we show that the largest species of sea turtle, Dermochelys coriacea, does not strictly adhere to this general pattern. Field observations combined with a theoretical model suggest that a 300 kg leatherback turtle would meet its energetic requirements by feeding for 3–4 h a day on 4 g jellyfish, but only if prey were aggregated in high-density patches. Therefore, prey abundance rather than prey size may, in some cases, be the overriding parameter for foraging leatherbacks. This is a classic example where the presence of small prey in the diet of a large marine predator may reflect profitable foraging decisions if the relatively low energy intake per small individual prey is offset by high encounter rates and minimal capture and handling costs. This study provides, to our knowledge, the first quantitative estimates of intake rate for this species.
plankton; trophic-niche; allometry; food web; carnivores; filter feeders
Humans and other animals have a variety of psychological abilities tailored to the demands of asocial foraging, that is, foraging without coordination or competition with other conspecifics. Human foraging, however, also includes a unique element, the creation of resource pooling systems. In this type of social foraging, individuals contribute when they have excess resources and receive provisioning when in need. Is this behavior produced by the same psychology as asocial foraging? If so, foraging partners should be judged by the same criteria used to judge asocial patches of resources: the net energetic benefits they provide. The logic of resource pooling speaks against this. Maintaining such a system requires the ability to judge others not on their short-term returns, but on the psychological variables that guide their behavior over the long-term. We test this idea in a series of five studies using an implicit measure of categorization. Results showed that (1) others are judged by the costs they incur (a variable not relevant to asocial foraging) whereas (2) others are not judged by the benefits they provide when benefits provided are unrevealing of underlying psychological variables (despite this variable being relevant to asocial foraging). These results are suggestive of a complex psychology designed for both social and asocial foraging.
social cognition; cooperation; sharing; foraging; evolutionary psychology
Lactation is the most energetically expensive component of reproduction in mammals. Theory predicts that reproducing females will adjust their behaviour to compensate for increased nutritional demands. However, experimental tests are required, since comparisons of the behaviour of naturally reproducing and non-reproducing females cannot distinguish between true costs of reproduction, individual differences or seasonal variation. We experimentally manipulated reproduction in free-ranging, eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus), using a fertility control agent. Our novel field experiment revealed that females altered their behaviour in direct response to the energetic demands of reproduction: reproducing females increased bite rates, and thus food intake, when the energetic demands of lactation were highest. Reproducing females did not reduce the time spent on vigilance for predators, but increased their forage intake on faecal-contaminated pasture, thereby increasing the risk of infection by gastrointestinal parasites—a largely unrecognized potential cost of reproduction.
cost of reproduction; eastern grey kangaroo; foraging behaviour; lactation; Macropus giganteus
The origin of sauropod dinosaurs is one of the major landmarks of dinosaur evolution but is still poorly understood. This drastic transformation involved major skeletal modifications, including a shift from the small and gracile condition of primitive sauropodomorphs to the gigantic and quadrupedal condition of sauropods. Recent findings in the Late Triassic–Early Jurassic of Gondwana provide critical evidence to understand the origin and early evolution of sauropods.
A new sauropodomorph dinosaur, Leonerasaurus taquetrensis gen. et sp. nov., is described from the Las Leoneras Formation of Central Patagonia (Argentina). The new taxon is diagnosed by the presence of anterior unserrated teeth with a low spoon-shaped crown, amphicoelous and acamerate vertebral centra, four sacral vertebrae, and humeral deltopectoral crest low and medially deflected along its distal half. The phylogenetic analysis depicts Leonerasaurus as one of the closest outgroups of Sauropoda, being the sister taxon of a clade of large bodied taxa composed of Melanorosaurus and Sauropoda.
The dental and postcranial anatomy of Leonerasaurus supports its close affinities with basal sauropods. Despite the small size and plesiomorphic skeletal anatomy of Leonerasaurus, the four vertebrae that compose its sacrum resemble that of the large-bodied primitive sauropods. This shows that the appearance of the sauropod-type of sacrum predated the marked increase in body size that characterizes the origins of sauropods, rejecting a causal explanation and evolutionary linkage between this sacral configuration and body size. Alternative phylogenetic placements of Leonerasaurus as a basal anchisaurian imply a convergent acquisition of the sauropod-type sacrum in the new small-bodied taxon, also rejecting an evolutionary dependence of sacral configuration and body size in sauropodomorphs. This and other recent discoveries are showing that the characteristic sauropod body plan evolved gradually, with a step-wise pattern of character appearance.