Body size as a driver of scavenging in theropod dinosaurs

Adam Kane, Kevin Healy*, Graeme D Ruxton, Andrew L Jackson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Theropod dinosaurs dominated Earth’s terrestrial ecosystem as a diverse group of predators for more than 160 million years, yet little is known about their foraging ecology. Maintaining a balanced energy budget presented a major challenge for therapods, which ranged from the chicken-sized Microraptor up to the whale-sized Giganotosaurus, in the face of intense competition and the demands of ontogenetic growth. Facultative scavenging, a behavior present in almost all modern predators, may have been important in supplementing energetically expensive lifestyles. By using agentbased models based on the allometric relationship between size and foraging behaviors, we show that theropods between 27 and 1,044 kg would have gained a significant energetic advantage over individuals at both the small and large extremes of theropod body mass through their scavenging efficiency. These results were robust to rate of competition, primary productivity, and detection distance. Our models demonstrate the potential importance of facultative scavenging in theropods and the role of body size in defining its prevalence in Mesozoic terrestrial systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)706-716
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number6
Early online date12 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • Dinosaurs
  • Scavenging
  • Scaling
  • Body mass
  • Theropods
  • Agent-based model


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