Mystery Killer, Part I
Mike Keesey  

Neotheropods: what won’t they eat?

January 17th, 2006 by Mike Keesey :: 4 Comments

Who could it be?

Carney may not have sampled pterosaurs, but a couple of years ago Buffetaut et al. (2004) showed that other neotheropods did. A pterodactyloid specimen was preserved with a spinosaurid tooth embedded in one of its cervical vertebrae. Previously, spinosaurids had been widely regarded as specialized for fish-eating, since one Baryonyx walkeri specimen contains acid-etched (i.e., partially digested) fish scales in its abdominal area (Charig and Milner, 1986), and the skulls of spinosaurids are remarkably crocodylian-like (Holtz, 1998). This may be the case to some extent, but it seems that, like Carney, they weren’t particularly choosy about whom they ate.

And while on the subject of unidentified killers… The Taung child, a famous specimen of our own species’ close relative Australopithecus africanus, was long thought to have been killed by a large feline, such as a leopard. Now it turns out that the culprit was actually … a neotheropod! An eagle (Accipitrinae), to be precise, probably something like a modern-day Crowned Eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus). Previously overlooked marks in the eye sockets closely match those of cercopithecid monkeys which have been eaten by eagles. (Berger, in press; McGraw et al., in press)

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