Struthiomimus vs. Protoceratops
Time Period & Environment: Winton Formation, Australia, 100 million years ago
Written By: Jackson Sweder
In the Winton Formation of Australia 100 million years ago a little Protoceratops is an odd sight. This is an ecosystem dominated by gigantic sauropods like Australotitan, iguanodontids similar to Muttaburasaurus and ankylosaurid dinosaurs. So, finding a Mongolian ceratopsian is a very strange occurrence.
Though out of place, the Protoceratops is very content. Surrounded by ferns and cycads in this plain filled with meandering rivers and small lakes, the little dinosaur is content to munch away at these plants. Its strong beak is perfectly suited to snip through the tough fern fronds, and it is having a pleasant feast in the morning sun.
Nearby another outsider is also browsing on the abundant foliage. A Struthiomimus from North America is nibbling its own way through the plants. But it is having a more challenging time finding its preferred diet of seeds, fruits, and soft plant leaves. The ferns are proving too tough for this dinosaur and the only seeds it can find are in the cones from the cycads and conifers. This is leading the Struthiomimus to be quite a bit hungrier than the Protoceratops.
Rounding a corner along the edge of a grove of trees the two dinosaurs encounter each other. The Protoceratops is next to a particularly rich area of foliage and is eager to protect its lunch. The Struthiomimus is the larger of the two dinosaurs but with a strong snapping beak the Protoceratops is not an easy opponent.
Squaring up to the intruder the Protoceratops begins grunting and snapping its beak at the Struthiomimus. This is not a dangerous encounter or one that will likely end in injury, the Protoceratops is just overly cautious of other animals, especially those larger than it.
But the Struthiomimus is not interested in the Protoceratops’s ferns. It has noticed a patch of shore plants next to the water which looks much more inviting. Giving the loud little dinosaur a wide berth the Struthiomimus wanders over to the shore to sample these plants and it finds they are tender and tasty, so it focusses on its meal.
Hungry as it is, the Struthiomimus is less vigilant than usual. Stalking along the forest edge the 6-meter-long predator Australovenator had been considering hunting the Protoceratops. But the larger Struthiomimus now browsing next to the shore provides a more tempting target. Shifting focus to the preoccupied Struthiomimus, the Australovenator begins its stalk. Using the shadows of the trees as cover the Australovenator is able to get within 20 meters of the browsing Struthiomimus.
Breaking cover the Australovenator dashes towards the Struthiomimus and with the Struthiomimus realizing the danger too late, the Australovenator can clamp its jaws on the hips of the Struthiomimus. Crying in pain the Struthiomimus is no match for the larger predator and is barely able to break free of the jaws, but with such a grievous wound it is unable to escape as the next bite comes towards its neck.
Hearing the commotion, the Protoceratops looks up to see the struggle and seeing a predator much larger than itself the Protoceratops decides to sneak off into the trees. Being so near a predator, even one with a meal in front of it, is not a plan the Protoceratops is keen on, so it is eager to find a less dangerous place to forage for fern leaves.