Saurornithoides vs. Ichthyornis
Time Period & Environment: Djadochta Formation, Mongolia, 75 million years ago
Written By: Jackson Sweder
Across the sand swept dunes and shrubby scrubland of the Djadochta region life is hard for a small carnivore. The troodontid, Saurornithoides, does well enough to survive by hunting mammals, lizards and sometimes raiding a nest for an egg or even a young Protoceratops, but it is not always easy to find a meal. That is why the Saurornithoides will often be found searching along the rare small rivers and oasis for the opportunity to ambush animals coming for a drink. It is a tactic that has worked many times for this hunter, and one that it is using today.
Stalking quietly in the shadows from the shrubs near the edge of the mostly dry watercourse, which is helped by the rumble of an approaching storm covering most sounds, our Saurornithoides uses its sharp eyesight to look for any potential victim.
Catching sight of something near the water, the dinosaur cautiously stalks closer to the shape, which appears to a sleeping bird. This bird is an Ichthyornis, which is a much smaller animal than the Saurornithoides leading the hunter to begin its stalk. A few paces in the Saurornithoides misjudges a step and crunches a patch of dry mud alerting the Ichthyornis to the danger and sending it flapping into the sky. Frustrated, the Saurornithoides leaps into the air to grab the escaping bird but misses its bite.
Landing back onto the shore the Saurornithoides steps on the mud that had betrayed its presence and now the mud betrays the hunter again. Rolling its ankle on a large stick it falls with a cry of pain striking its head on a river stone.
Disoriented and in pain, the Saurornithoides cannot move quickly as the storm breaks and the parched ground is inundated with water. Soon there is too much water for the ground to absorb, leading the water to flow in a flash-flood, sweeping the Saurornithoides downstream. The Ichthyornis survived this day because of an unlucky hunter and the danger that a river can cause.