Bulletin of the
Peabody Museum of Natural History
Volume 48, Issue 1
April 2007, pp. 103–138

A Reevaluation of Cooperative Pack Hunting and Gregariousness in Deinonychus antirrhopus and Other Nonavian Theropod Dinosaurs

Brian T. Roach and Daniel L. Brinkman

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Abstract

Since the 1969 description of Deinonychus antirrhopus Ostrom, cooperative pack hunting behavior for this species and, subsequently, for many other nonavian theropods, has attained wide acceptance. In this paper we assess the hypothesis of mammal-like cooperative pack hunting in D. antirrhopus and other nonavian theropods by examining the behaviors of extant diapsids. Through phylogenetic inference and character optimization, we conclude that this hypothesis is both unparsimonious and unlikely for these taxa and that the null hypothesis should therefore be that nonavian theropod dinosaurs were solitary hunters or, at most, foraged in loose associations. Moreover, we present new evidence from the D. antirrhopus type locality of probable intraspecific aggression in this species. Additionally, our study suggests that some evidence that has previously been proposed in support of highly gregarious, mammal-like behavior in nonavian theropods (e.g., certain theropod-dominated fossil assemblages, preserved bite-mark injuries on some specimens, and the preponderance of theropod trackways at some sites) may alternatively be interpreted as evidence that nonavian theropod behavior was more agonistic, cannibalistic, and diapsid-like than has been widely believed.


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