DK Science: Pack Hunters

Just as modern meat-eating animals such as lions combine forces to pull down animals larger than themselves, many flesh-eating theropods hunted in packs. Roaming in gangs, heavily muscled, and armed with vicious claws and powerful jaws lined with sharp teeth, they were intelligent enough to band together before going into the attack. Like some sophisticated hunters today, dinosaurs may have developed tactics to outsmart their prey, such as luring them into traps or surrounding them before the attack.

Trapped in a quagmire

Deep, waterlogged mud could become a death trap for victims and flesh-eating predators alike. Cries from a trapped dinosaur would attract the attention of heavyweight predators such as the Allosaurus, which would in turn sink and be engulfed by the mud. Numerous other predators would try for the easy meat and drown. The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Utah, USA, was once the site of just such a predator trap. Since scientists first found fossils there in 1927, more than 10,000 dinosaur bones have been unearthed, most of them from predators.

Family feasting

Lions are sociable animals that live together in prides of a dozen or more, including several lionesses and their cubs. They hunt together and later feast on the spoils as a group. Packs of small, carnivorous dinosaurs may have shared larger prey in this way. There was no need for them to defend the kill from the attentions of scavengers as it was quickly devoured. They were then free to move on to their next victim.

Tactics of modern hunters

Hungry lions work together as a team to secure food for their pride, including the young and old. Hunting in open grassland, they silently encircle their prey, making it impossible to escape in any direction.

  1. Female lions creep towards the prey through the long grass, taking care not to arouse suspicion.

  2. Males quietly take up positions to the rear of the prey.

  3. The prey animals graze in the open, unaware of the threat.

  4. Abandoning stealth, some of the males charge straight for the prey.

  5. Other members of the pride follow ready to head off any veering prey.

  6. The prey animals flee towards the trap.

  7. Keeping still, the females choose an animal to attack, then burst out and bring it down.

Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley

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