Recently, I wrote an entire series of ‘History of Life‘ where I wrote some articles on the dinosaurs as well. Dinosaurs were one of the most diverse groups that ever walked the Earth. One of the reasons for that was the everlasting predator-prey race, which thrived during the Mesozoic Era. How dinosaurs protected themselves from predators and how did predators hunt for prey?
Dangers of the Mesozoic- Predators
Specialised Structures and Strategies
Being a successful predator comes with various adaptations. Starting with anatomy, predatory dinosaurs had many specialised organs and structures. Starting with claws, enormous teeth, agile legs (Tyrannosaurus rex reached a speed of 56 kilometres per hour).
Secondly, even with the right tools, there’s got to be a strategy. To hunt for prey, dinosaurs ambushed their prey. Camouflage enabled hiding and waiting for the prey to appear, then catching. Another way was using those legs and chasing herds of dinosaurs, hoping to catch the weak specimen. Finally, some species snatched and pierced the prey with their teeth. We have to remember, that many dinosaurs combined those strategies for successful hunting.
Dinosaurs Protection Techniques
Scarring the Opponent
As we can see, being a herbivorous dinosaur in the Mesozoic was not an easy way of living. Not all species could have been faster than their hunters, so they had to use other techniques. Many species had impressive sets of horns, which could scare the opponent away or, if that did not work, be a tool in a counteroffensive.
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Another way of scarring the predator was having a head or a face shape that looked dangerous. For example, Triceratops’ head looked way bigger due to the structure around his head and horns made him look dangerous.
Adaptations for defense
To properly defend themselves, dinosaurs often developed specialized organs. Tails were and still are a very important part of many species. Dinosaurs used them for balance, however, it often got more interesting than that. Euoplocephalus had a long, straight tale that could be swung like a club.
Other species had spines and other structures on their tails to make them better weapons. A tail could also be used for standing up on hind legs, to make a more dangerous impression. Dinosaurs’ tails, claws, and horns were very different and therefore they were used for various defense strategies.
Outsmarting the predator
Triceratops mentioned before had one more important adaptation. Its color was quite similar to the pattern of his surroundings. Therefore, it was harder to spot him in the grass. Many other species used and still use camouflage to hide from potential predators and stay safe. However, even if a potential predator spotted a dinosaur, there were still a couple of useful tricks.
Firstly, dinosaurs protected themselves by showing off scary-looking and usually, also protective structures. Dinosaurs made various calls, probably including roars, and often showed-off brightly colored parts of their bodies (vivid colors indicate danger for many animals). As today, plant-eaters often had eyes on the sides of their heads to enable wide-field vision.
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No matter how smart or agile you are, sticking together makes a good tactic. Many dinosaurs species created family-like structures, in which they raised their offspring. Similar to today’s lions, the group had a dominant male for protection and many females. Another similarity is that smaller species, for example, Deinonychus, created groups to hunt for bigger prey.
Big, herbivorous, and usually quite slow species created herds for protection. Members cared for each other, like today’s elephants. Hunting predators usually took weak or sick individuals, enabling the evolution to progress. Therefore, the race between prey and predators continued, as it does today.
Dinosaurs ruled our planet for three major eras. You can read about these eras (Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous) in the links provided below.
- Triassic Period: The rise of the dinosaurs
- Jurassic period: The era of the dinosaurs
- Cretaceous period: The end of the dinosaurs
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