Fossils depicting animals in action are very rare.
- A fossil of a prehistoric ant hunting has recently been discovered.
- Fossilization is rare, so depictions of activities like hunting are hard to come by.
- Other fossils show us how dinosaurs hunted, fought, and died.
The rarity of action shot fossils<p>Fossilization of any kind is infrequent. While the things that must go right for it to happen vary on the method, a typical dinosaur fossil would have to be buried in minerals conducive to fossilization before too much of it decays or is scattered <a href="http://geology.isu.edu/Alamo/fossils/process_fossilization.php#:~:text=Fossilization%20is%20the%20process%20by,years%20are%20preserved%20as%20fossils." target="_blank">away</a>.</p><p>The odds of this happening are low. The odds of this happening with two animals that were fighting at the time of their death are even lower. However, improbability is not the same as impossibility, and several other fantastic examples of ancient predators engaged in life and death struggles with their prey have been preserved.</p>
The “Fighting Dinosaurs” of Mongolia<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU2OTg5NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjAzMjI2OH0.w7N0c7sarqd7SrntZzhFGBj4ukTN4AYVeCK_cV2R_Iw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="e82f1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d9454690c662851272ae7d53df5718bf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Two dinosaurs skeletons fighting" />
By Yuya Tamai from Gifu, Japan - 2014-03-25 13.04.52, CC BY 2.0<p>One of the more famous fossils of all time is a depiction of a velociraptor fighting a protoceratops. In the above picture, you can see the raptor's slashing claw where the neck of the protoceratops once was and the raptor's forearm caught in the beak of its <a href="https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/fighting-dinos/the-fighting-dinosaurs" target="_blank">prey</a>.</p><p>Discovered by a Polish-Mongolian team in the seventies, these remains are thought to have been preserved by the rapid collapse of a sand dune onto the battling animals, or by their rapid burial in a sandstorm.</p><p>Not only is this fantastic to look at, but it provides us with evidence about how these species of dinosaur behaved that more typical remains cannot offer. For example, while it was commonly supposed that a velociraptor's claw was used to disembowel prey, this scene demonstrates that it was likely used elsewhere. Some have even gone so far as to suggest it wasn't designed to create slashing wounds at all, but instead was used to grab <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617199/" target="_blank">prey</a>. </p>
Montana’s Dueling Dinos<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="03301e661e226e7d9ea96357122fcee8"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xwpugYXB1RA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The subject of an extended ownership debate that was only recently <a href="https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/court-rules-dueling-dinos-belong-landowners-win-science" target="_blank">settled</a>, this fossil has yet to be seen by the public and has already been built into the stuff of legend. </p><p>It depicts a Tyrannosaurs-esque predator locked in combat with a potentially unknown member of the ceratopidae family (that's the group that has horns on their faces, like the eternally loved triceratops). The extended court cases around the ownership of the remains haven't been able to eclipse the find's incredible nature.</p><p>In addition to depicting predation, the Tyrannosaurus fossil is nearly <a href="https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/court-rules-dueling-dinos-belong-landowners-win-science" target="_blank">complete</a>, making it one of about a dozen near-complete T-Rex fossils. </p><p>Clayton Phipps, the discoverer of the fossils, further explained how incredible the find was to <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/public-ever-see-dueling-dinosaurs-180963676/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">Smithsonian Magazine</a>: "There's an entire skin envelope around both dinosaurs," Phipps says. "They're basically mummies. There could be soft tissue inside."</p><p>Others are less convinced of the importance of this discovery. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Horner_(paleontologist)" target="_blank" rel="dofollow">John Horner</a>, the paleontologist who dug up the famous T-Rex known as "Sue," dismissed the find as "scientifically useless" due to the lack of data collected at the site by the people who dug it <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/public-ever-see-dueling-dinosaurs-180963676/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">up</a>. </p><p>Despite his objections, interest in the fossil remains high, likely due to the aforementioned rarity of such a depiction by a fossil. </p>
The study also discovered a downside to having a big brain.
Ever wonder about the intelligence of various animals and how they measure up? Researchers at Vanderbilt University decided to find out. Specifically, they chose a subsection of mammals called carnivorans. This group has 250 species, each with sharp teeth and claws, which allow them to hunt other animals.