Nesbitt_etal_2006_main

Prey choice and cannibalistic behavior in the theropod Coelophysis

Demonstrates that some gut contents found in large Coelophysis, previously identified as bones from young Coelophysis, are actually early crocodiles. This eliminates one line evidence for cannibalism in Coelophysis.

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Abstract

Direct evidence of prey choice in carnivorous dinosaurs is rare in the fossil record. The most celebrated example pertains to purported stomach contents in the carnivorous dinosaur Coelophysis bauri, which besides revealing prey choice, also points to cannibalistic behavior as being commonplace (Colbert 1989, 1995). Here, we test this hypothesis by conducting the first comprehensive anatomical and histological examination of the famed Coelophysis 'cannibals'. The results unequivocally show that the gut contents derive from early crocodylomorphs rather than juveniles of Coelophysis. These findings suggest that this taxon is not cannibalistic and bring into question the commonality of this behavior among non-avian dinosaurs.