Giraffatitan vs. Heterodontosaurus
In Tanzania, during the Late Jurassic Period about 150 million years ago, there is a semi-arid landscape with a scattering of waterways, rivers, and fresh-water pools. It’s the dry season and the days are hot and getting hotter. The dry foliage covering the ground crackles when animals step across it. This is the home of giant African sauropod Giraffatitan.
Long-necked, long-armed, this plant-eater standing over 13 meters tall. Giraffatitan is a titanosauriform; his small head and large circular mouth pokes out above the forest tree tops (Taylor et al. 2009). With his row of spatula-like teeth, he makes short work of the upper canopy foliage. Though he shares the same ecosystem as other long necks like Dicraeosaurus, this Giraffatitan does not have to fear competition, as his superior reach allows him to access food the others cannot.
Arriving from the same continent but millions of years earlier, fleet footed Heterodontosaurus is first spotted running across a fallen log. Her body, turkey sized and covered in keratinous quills, pales in comparison to the massive sauropods that dominate this new futuristic ecosystem.Nevertheless, the Heterodontosaurus is focussed on hunting down a meal. She spies a familiar sight; earthy mounds, rising 3-meters above the ground… Insects!
Heterodontosaurus hops off the log and approaches the insect colony cautiously. With her five-fingered hands she grasps the mound and takes a bite into the hill. The primitive ornithischian’s tusk-like canines and front beak (Norman et al. 2011) carve into the tunnels of the colony, where insects tend their larvae. After the nest is broken open, the insects begin to pour out in a feverous frenzy. The small ornithischian begins to eat with gusto. As the frenzy slows and the insects retreat underground, Heterodontosaurus is still hungry.
Absorbed in her feeding frenzy, the heterodontosaurus does not notice that Giraffatitan has begun to walk towards her. The giant’s attention is on a fresh unspoiled green canopy above the insect mounds, and he is oblivious to the small bipedal dinosaur.
Heterodontosaurus, remembering that more insects can be found deeper, plans her next attack. She sticks her hands into the holes created from her previous bite, then pulls back the outer layer revealing another chamber group of the hiding colony. As the insect colony crumbles, Heterodontosaurus enjoys the scrumptious fruits of her labor.
Suddenly, just as Heterodontosaurus contemplates prying up another section of the insect nest, she feels the ground begins to tremble. She quickly scampers away, narrowly dodging an enormous single-clawed front foot of Giraffatitan. As the giant sauropod steps forwards his feet collide with some of the above-ground insect nests, easily plowing through the piles.
As the sauropod browses on the tall trees, Heterodontosaurus emerges and runs back to where she was so rudely interrupted. She finds a buffet of freshly smashed insect-mounds, with the largest and hardest to reach chambers open for consumption.
Not only has Heterodontosaurus dodged Giraffatitan, but she also gets to enjoy a much larger meal for absolutely no effort!