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RANT! ‘specialized diet’

I’m going to launch on some rants. And I’m going to start off on Stephen Brusatte’s  highly recommendable book Dinosaur Paleobiology. It is a great overview and wonderfully written. So why would I rant about it? For one thing, it shows how I don’t take my rants so seriously. (I’m grumpy and only have time to write until the next render is ready.) For another, the thing I’m going to rant about toady happens to me all the time. You get caught up in a term and use it beyond all further meaning. It’s become a meme. In the chapter on dinosaur diets, Stephen mentions how most theropods are carnivores. Only few have specialized diets. Then he repeats this formula repeatedly. “They ate plants or subsisted on a more specialized diet.” And I stop reading the otherwise wonderfully written book and think…

what does that mean?

He repeats the term enough for me to know per exclusion that a specialized diet is not one consisting of meat, plants, bones or fish. Of course I’m thinking – ‘Alvasuars!’ But this is a rant and I’m in no mood to be forgiving. The wierdest usage comes when he uses the term directly after describing Tyrannosaurs as such a pure meat -eater that they could be termed hyper-carnivores. What’s more specialized than that!?

Render done. Rant over.

There are 2 Comments to this article

Jaime Headden says:
07/17/2012

Funny thing … in looking at egg-eating in snakes, one comes across more than one group of snake that regularly consume eggs. Seasonality, relative consumption in over all diet, and mode of consumption differ among several species of elapid (specifically, Pantherophis, Elaphe, and Dasypeltis). Other snakes and mammals and birds eat eggs, and sometimes in great quantities relative to their diet. All it means is that that there animal is doing something more specific with its jaws than just this broad category.

So yeah … it’s a little overused.

dmaas says:
07/17/2012

It happens to me too. You’re using a phrase that you’ve picked up and then realize the literal meaning of the words has given way to a meta-meaning that functions almost like a code within your group, ie. cg artists or palaeo-freaks.

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