Prehistoric Animals


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Tyrannosaurus bite

Means of survival

All the dinosaurs, wether herbivores or carnivores, had difficulties to survive. They developed strategies that allowed them to find food and protect themselves from predators. For dinosaurs, as for all animals, life consisted mainly of finding food and avoiding being eaten by others. Herbivores developed elaborate strategies and a variety of defensive weapons. Taken in this evolutionary arms race and often facing strong competition, predators developed even more formidable weapons to attack and subdue the animals they had chosen as victims.

Sauropod strategies

Diplodocus tailwhip

For larger dinosaurs, size alone was an effective defense against most predators. If the gigantic sauropods were probably safe from attacks from smaller ones, their offspring could, on the other hand, be an easy prey. To defend themselves, they most likely set up social structures that allow adults to protect their little ones by shielding them. Adult sauropods could use their tails as a baseball bat to hit the attacker. The finer, whip-shaped tail of the diplodocids could inflict deadly blows.

Integrated protection

Triceratops horns

The horns of the ceratopsians and the tail spikes of the stegosaurs may have come to annihilate the devastating effects of the predators. These bone structures covered with a keratin sheath ended with a murderous sharp point. The spikes that covered the ankylosaurs probably also served as offensive weapons. With its skull protected by plates and spiked body, the Edmontonia could easily hurt the attacker with a single shoulder shot. In the ankylosaurus, the tail ended with two bony balls and, stiffened, became a real club which could be balanced from one side to the other and had to be very effective in breaking the delicate ankles of the theropods. The animal was also protected by a bony plates armor able to withstand the bites and claws of predators. Dinosaurs could also defend themselves effectively by bristling. The ceratopsian necklaces and the stegosaur plates perhaps took a bright color at that time. Bristling was probably enough to deter the attacker facing a creature that suddenly seemed more impressive. For many of the larger ornithopods, group safety was probably their main defense. Flocks of tens, hundreds or even thousands of individuals were a difficult target for predators. By gathering together, they had more eyes and ears to spot potential attackers and a more effective way to alert the group.


Theropod claw

Predatory dinosaurs had plenty of arsenal to mount the assault. Their armament was certainly both behavioral and structural. Some theropods probably preyed on their prey. They were standing on a track hiding, ready to jump at the first opportunity. Others probably had to hunt alone and in the open, their size and strength being decisive in the fighting. Pack hunting was a good tactic when predators were smaller than the coveted prey. It was probably that of some dromaeosaurids. The fossil of Tenontosaurus that has been discovered near several Deinonychus fossils would tend to prove it. It is also likely that small groups of allosaurids worked collaboratively to attack sauropods, some diverting attention from adults while others attacked the youngest. With their pointed sharp teeth and their curved claws that could catch or disembowel their victims, the theropods were well armed. The claws of Baryonyx's hands or the gigantic claws of the Therizinosaurus knobs probably had very specific functions. Likewise, the claws of the toes of dromaeosaurids and troodontids were perfectly adapted to injure or kill.