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Body Size Overlap, Habitat Partitioning and Living Space Requirements of Terrestrial Vertebrate Predators: Implications for the Paleoecology of Large Theropod Dinosaurs

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Ecological studies of extant tetrapod predators indicate that morphologically similar species which coexist in the same habitats routinely reduce interspecific competition for food by regular spacing of body size. The biggest predator species in the assemblage often differ more from one another in size than the smallest species. When coexisting carnivore species do not differ greatly in size, they commonly show morphological differences related to prey handling that may reduce dietary overlap. If carnivore species are very similar in both size and morphology, competition is avoided by habitat partitioning. Two tyrannosaurid species from the late Campanian Dinosaur Park Formation of western Canada are similar in both size and morphology, suggesting that they were segregated on the basis of habitat and/or biogeographic province. However, consideration of the living-space requirements of predator species of such large body size suggests that this kind of spatial separation would only have been possible had tyrannosaurids been more like ectotherms than endotherms in their metabolic rates. Distribution of different large theropod species across different, and surprisingly small (for the size of the animals) portions of Mesozoic landscapes may also account for the remarkably high diversity of morphologically similar large theropods in other dinosaur faunas.

Keywords: Body size; Dinosaur Park Formation; Dinosaurs; Ecology; Hutchinsonian ratio; Paleocology; Theropods; Tyrannosaurids

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Section of Integrative Biology University of Texas C0930 78712-1064 Austin TX USA 2: Department of Geosciences Indiana-Purdue University 46805 Fort Wayne IN USA

Publication date: 2003-08-01

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