Evol Ecol Res 10: 925-930 (2008) Full PDF if your library subscribes.
Megaherbivores as pacemakers of carnivore diversity and biomass: distributing or sinking trophic energy?
Jürgen Hummel1 and Marcus Clauss2
1Institute of Animal Science, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany and 2Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Correspondence: J. Hummel, Institute of Animal Science, University of Bonn, Endenicher Allee 15, 53115 Bonn, Germany.
Question: What is the trophic role of megaherbivores?
Hypothesis: Depending on their life histories, megaherbivores can either act as sinks or distributors of trophic energy.
Methods: Comparative review of mammal and dinosaur faunas, and aspects of their reproductive biology.
Conclusion: Extant (mammalian) megaherbivore populations represent trophic sinks that potentially limit carnivore diversity and productivity, because they are immune to predation and follow a reproductive strategy of very few, well-protected offspring. In contrast, in dinosaur faunas, the particularities of reproductive biology such as a larger number of offspring and limited parental care made a major part of megaherbivore biomass available to carnivores. Consequently, this increase in available trophic energy allowed for larger body masses and higher species diversity of dinosaur carnivores.
Keywords: dinosaurs, mammals, parental care, reproductive biology.
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