Ancient Hypercarnivores Hunt Down Big Herbivores Like Mammoths

Posted: Oct 29 2015, 10:28pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Ancient Hypercarnivores Hunt Down Big Herbivores Like Mammoths
A pack of saber-tooth cats (Smilodon) fight with adult Colombian mammoths over a juvenile mammoth they've felled. A new analysis by a team of biologists concludes that 'hypercarnivores' such as these working in concert could have taken down juveniles of the largest herbivores. /CREDIT: Painting courtesy of Mauricio Anton
  • Prehistoric Super-Predators fed on Baby Mammoths

It has been found that prehistoric super-predators that were carnivores by nature fed on baby wooly mammoths.

About a million years ago, some of the super-carnivores would most likely have been able to make a conquest of giant herbivores that foraged in the arboreal fields. These included mastodons and mammoths.

The latest computer simulations show that many of these super-carnivores included within their ranks hyenas and saber-toothed tigers. Even the baby herbivores were pretty hefty and yet they easily became a source of prey for these bloodthirsty meat-eaters of the past.

The super-predators of ancient times were much bigger in size than today’s wolves, hyenas and big cats. They sank their teeth into mastodons, mammoths and giant sloths regularly.

These super-predators are called "hypercarnivores" by a team of evolutionary biologists whose study appeared online the week of Oct. 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

All of this cruelty on a natural level had a purpose. It led to stable populations of these herbivores. Otherwise they would have multiplied beyond the capacity of the environment to feed them.

Their vegetative overgrazing and over-browsing would have had devastating effects on the plant life and this in turn would have left the earth virtually barren. During the Pleistocene Era, the world was populated by huge herbivores and some of them weighed as much as 800 kg.

The balance of herbivores and carnivores was a delicate matter. The fact that today we don’t have any saber-toothed tigers only compounds the issue and increases the number of questions that remain unanswered.

The exact size of the extinct predators was a mystery. That is because in the fossil record all that was found were mostly the teeth, but thanks to various computer models, the issue has gotten pretty much resolved. A number of clues have emerged from heuristic methodologies that have aided paleontologists in their quest to gain a clearer picture of the past.

The only real evidence of what went on in those ancient mists of time is that the predators ganged up on the herbivores. They were a vicious lot who attacked in a very feral manner and got the best of their plant-eating gentler counterparts.

The planetary conditions were ideal for a burgeoning and blossoming of fauna and flora. Their inter-related food webs ensured that Mother Nature kept its balance intact. It is a difficult proposition to recreate the conditions of the distant past. Computers are the sole device the scientists have at their disposal to dig out the facts from the fiction that took place eons ago.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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