Cannibalism and Feeding Habits of Dinosaurs
Cannibalism is a long-standing taboo in our society; the thought of humans preying on other humans for a food source disgusts and astounds us. Though the practice is not common amongst modern day humans there is some evidence to suggest that ancient humans resorted to such measures, and a recent discovery in Madagascar attests to the possibility that some carnivorous dinosaurs fed on their own species (Perkins, 2003).
Majungatholus atopus roamed the plains of northwestern Madagascar about 70 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous (Perkins, 2003; Rogers et al, 2003). The discovery of 21 tooth-marked elements originating from two Majungatholus atopus individuals suggests evidence that the dinosaur supplemented its diet by feeding on its own dead or hunting them (Rogers et al, 2003). It cannot be confirmed whether they were purely scavengers, hunters, or both. Scientists are certain that the marks are not the doing of any other predator because the teeth marks are not consistent with any other known species that lived in the area. Only one other theropod that inhabited the area during the time Majungatholus atopus did, Masiakasaurus knopfleri, had teeth and bite marks too small to have caused these markings. Two large crocodile species also shared the same ecosystem but their teeth were “too blunt and too irregularly spaced to have produced the narrow grooves found on the Majungatholus bones”(Perkins, 2003). The tooth marks on at least nine Majungatholus elements attest to intertooth spacing in the perpetrators jaw and denticle drag patterns consistent enough to make a compelling case for Majungatholus feeding on other Majungatholus (Rogers et al, 2003).
The discovery is an important find for paleontologists because the evidence for cannibalism amongst dinosaurs has been limited thus far. Though cannibalism is known to exist today in at least 14 mammalian carnivores and numerous reptiles, conclusive examples of cannibalistic dinosaurs have yet to be established (Rogers et al, 2003). Ceolophysis bauri, a Triassic theropod, was thought to be cannibalistic due to the discovery of juvenile Ceolophysis bones within the rib cage; however, a reinterpretation of the bones suggests that they may have actually been below the rib cage rather than inside it, and the stomach capacity of the species might not have been capable of ingesting that amount of material (Rogers et al, 2003). A theory has also been proposed that the tyrannosaurids of...