Pre-Flood predatory dinosaur interactions and the fossil record
A reader from Ukraine, B.V., asks some interesting questions about what dinosaurs are found buried together and why. His message follows, with a response from Philip Bell, intended to provoke fruitful thought on the topic, not as an exhaustive answer to the questions raised.
How did that many animals get along before the Flood? For example, there were such apex predators in North America, as Tyrannosaurus, Daspletosaurus, Siats, Acrocanthosaurus, Torvosaurus, Allosaurus etc.
We see traces of interaction between T. rex and Triceratops, Allosaurus and Stegosaurus. If they lived at the same time, why don’t we see traces of interaction between T. rex and Stegosaurus or Allosaurus and Triceratops?
There were some intelligent and agile creatures among dinosaurs. Why aren’t they as high as most of mammals in the fossil record?1
Philip Bell replies:
Thank you for your question. I’d like to answer your question in a slightly unusual way.
Today, there are many predatory animals alive on Earth, some of them large and dangerous. Take the continent of Africa as an example. Discounting insect-related disease and pestilence (mosquitos and locusts particularly), the most deadly animals in Africa are:
- black mamba (snake),
- Nile crocodile,
- rhino (both ‘black’ and ‘white’ species).
All these animals are dangerous to humans. The lion is, of course, an apex predator. We could single out many other animals from across the world that are dangerous to other animals, also to mankind. Yet, it’s not a problem because the world is a very big place.
Prior to the Noahic Flood, there would also have been an abundance of habitat for a wealth of animals of all sorts. Even after the Fall/Curse (Genesis 3), when the original rules of herbivory and harmony began to break down—the onset of some predation, parasitism, etc.—one would assume that predator/prey relationships quickly became established, including for the many sorts of dinosaurs that we know existed, from their fossil remains.
Just as today, where apex predators normally keep out of each other’s way (e.g. the many species of Felidae [cats]) and generally avoid violent interactions, the pre-Flood land areas were certainly large enough for the same sort of thing to have occurred. Also, remember that absence of evidence (in this case direct fossil evidence) is not evidence for absence. Palaeontology is littered with examples of discoveries that revealed species to be contemporaneous that had previously not been understood to have lived at the same time or place. You mention the example of two predators, T. rex and Allosaurus, and two herbivores, Stegosaurus and Triceratops. Not only is it likely that the two predatory dinosaurs mentioned did not share exactly the same habitats and prey items (which might explain the absence of certain combinations of predator/prey fossils) but future fossil finds may well overturn current models. Fossil ranges are constantly being extended as new finds are made—see, for example, these articles by Michael J. Oard from recent years:
2019 – More expansion of fossil time ranges, Journal of Creation 33(3):3–4, December 2019.
Some of these fossil range expansions involve moving evolutionary time boundaries by 100 million years or even more. The above articles furnish many examples in the scientific literature. (I myself have kept an ever-expanding super-list of such expansions for around 20 years which I intend to publish at some point in the near future.) These facts alone make it unwise to draw too-strong conclusions about what was contemporary with what in the past.
You asked why we don’t find intelligent, agile dinosaurs “as high as most mammals in the fossil record”. It’s an interesting question and one which I’d like to see more creationist palaeontologists address. One of the reasons, I suspect, is that the fossil record, speaking in very general terms, seems to reflect the successive burial of pre-Flood ecosystems. Today, we see many aquatic ecosystems: the benthic (deep sea) ecosystem, profundal ecosystem, oceanic, marine shelf, shallow sea, and coral reef ecosystems. The latter, as I have listed them, are moving roughly from deep sea to shallow sea. On land, we see shoreline, salt marshes, wetlands, deserts, prairies/savannas, temperature forests, coniferous forests, taiga, tundra, mountains, etc.
Many Flood models assume that a similar variety of ecosystems existed pre-Flood, successively buried as the flood water rose higher and higher, inundating more and more of the land masses of that time. If so, consider some implications. Since reptiles are ‘cold blooded’, they tend to be found at lower altitudes and in lower latitudes too. It is mammals and birds (with their insulating fur and feathers) that can acclimatise to greater extremes of temperature associated with higher latitude and higher altitudes. I believe this goes a long way to explaining the general lack of reptiles (dinosaurs included) in the rock units higher up the geological record, especially the latter part of the Cenozoic. For more information, please see Order in the fossil record.
I trust these thoughts are helpful.
References and notes
- The genus names of these dinosaurs given by the enquirer have been capitalized and italicized, as per taxonomic convention. Return to text.