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      Direct evidence of trophic interactions among apex predators in the Late Triassic of western North America.

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          Abstract

          Hypotheses of feeding behaviors and community structure are testable with rare direct evidence of trophic interactions in the fossil record (e.g., bite marks). We present evidence of four predation, scavenging, and/or interspecific fighting events involving two large paracrocodylomorphs (='rauisuchians') from the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation (∼220-210 Ma). The larger femur preserves a rare history of interactions with multiple actors prior to and after death of this ∼8-9-m individual. A large embedded tooth crown and punctures, all of which display reaction tissue formed through healing, record evidence of a failed attack on this individual. The second paracrocodylomorph femur exhibits four unhealed bite marks, indicating the animal either did not survive the attack or was scavenged soon after death. The combination of character states observed (e.g., morphology of the embedded tooth, 'D'-shaped punctures, evidence of bicarination of the marking teeth, spacing of potentially serial marks) indicates that large phytosaurs were actors in both cases. Our analysis of these specimens demonstrates phytosaurs targeted large paracrocodylomorphs in these Late Triassic ecosystems. Previous distinctions between 'aquatic' and 'terrestrial' Late Triassic trophic structures were overly simplistic and built upon mistaken paleoecological assumptions; we show they were intimately connected at the highest trophic levels. Our data also support that size cannot be the sole factor in determining trophic status. Furthermore, these marks provide an opportunity to start exploring the seemingly unbalanced terrestrial ecosystems from the Late Triassic of North America, in which large carnivores far outnumber herbivores in terms of both abundance and diversity.

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          Most cited references 51

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          Predator interactions, mesopredator release and biodiversity conservation.

          There is growing recognition of the important roles played by predators in regulating ecosystems and sustaining biodiversity. Much attention has focused on the consequences of predator-regulation of herbivore populations, and associated trophic cascades. However apex predators may also control smaller 'mesopredators' through intraguild interactions. Removal of apex predators can result in changes to intraguild interactions and outbreaks of mesopredators ('mesopredator release'), leading in turn to increased predation on smaller prey. Here we provide a review and synthesis of studies of predator interactions, mesopredator release and their impacts on biodiversity. Mesopredator suppression by apex predators is widespread geographically and taxonomically. Apex predators suppress mesopredators both by killing them, or instilling fear, which motivates changes in behaviour and habitat use that limit mesopredator distribution and abundance. Changes in the abundance of apex predators may have disproportionate (up to fourfold) effects on mesopredator abundance. Outcomes of interactions between predators may however vary with resource availability, habitat complexity and the complexity of predator communities. There is potential for the restoration of apex predators to have benefits for biodiversity conservation through moderation of the impacts of mesopredators on their prey, but this requires a whole-ecosystem view to avoid unforeseen negative effects. 'Nothing has changed since I began. My eye has permitted no change. I am going to keep things like this.' From 'Hawk Roosting', by Ted Hughes.
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            Vertebrate Taphonomy

             R. Lyman (1994)
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              Synopsis of the Extinct Batrachia, Reptilia and Aves of North America

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Naturwissenschaften
                Die Naturwissenschaften
                1432-1904
                0028-1042
                Nov 2014
                : 101
                : 11
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, The University of Tennessee, 306 EPS Building, Knoxville, TN, 37996, USA, sdrumhel@utk.edu.
                Article
                10.1007/s00114-014-1238-3
                25228348

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