Did present a lovely paleontological paradox: Dinosaurs supposedly cold-blooded and fossil mammals supposedly warm blooded both exhibited the same pred-ator-to-prey ratios, which were higher than those of any modern mammal habitat. (dinosaur costume)Did such an apparent paradox have a solution? I suspect it will be found in a proper understanding of a basic geological axiom called “uniformitarianism.” Usually defined as meaning that the present is the key to the past, the central assumption of uniformitarianism is the idea that the natural processes seen in operation today are the only forces that were at work in the past. (dinosaur equipment)In general, that is a reliable assumption. But taken to an extreme, the concept is used to argue that all ancient ecosystems were organized exactly like presentday habitats. Such an argument would insist that no extinct warm-blooded predator could reach a ratio of 4 percent of its prey because warm-blooded carnivores today rarely attain that level. Extreme uniformitarianism would also be forced to maintain that 3 or 4 percent ratios for fossil mammals were wrong, the result of unknown distortions in the processes of fossilization.
Such criticism of the argument from predator-to-prey ratios assumes that today’s world is normal and typical of all of the earth’s history. That is simply not the case. (animatronic dinosaur)In many ways modern ecosys terns are abnormal, distorted by unusually dry climates and by the intrusions of human activity. The following figures are instructive. Under ideal conditions, like those found in a game park or a wellrun zoo, lions require a minimum of ten times their own weight in meat per year to live healthily and reproduce. (dinosaur supplier)So 10,000 pounds of meat suffice as a full year’s supply for a family of lions weighing a total of 1,000 pounds (one 350 pound male, two 250 pound females, and three 50 pound cubs). To supply this, a herd of deer or antelope weighing 20,000 pounds would be required. In this ideal situation, therefore, the predator-to-prey ratio can be found by dividing 1,000 pounds of lion by 20,000 pounds of prey 5 percent. Why, then, are the ratios in the Serengeti only one tenth of 1 percent?