[Thanan] Evolution of Dromae Hunting Adaptions

There is significant debate amongst dromae paleontologists about whether their primitive dinosaurian ancestors were capable of flight. It is clear that their distant cousins the birds are, and that some species closely related to raptorian ancestors may have been more than gliders.

Dromae paleontologists are firm that they are not descended from birds. The presence of teeth, prominent primary feathers on the legs, partially keeled sternum and shoulder girdle adaptions indicate the split was from the protoavians. Unfortunately the small size, fragile bones and forested habitat combine to form a sharp gap in the fossil record. Primitive raptorians next become obvious in desert salt-lake deposits and there are multiple potential paths that could have brought them there.

It is thought that small primitive raptorians may have roosted in trees and outcroppings and retained the legwings for ease of return to the ground for hunting. Hunting techniques are thought to be similar to that used by young dromae or by adults against small prey: the prey is pounced upon from a distance, with the spread arms lengthening the jump and acting as large control surfaces while the tail and its feather vanes stabilise and make fine alterations. Upon landing on the prey the sickle claws sink into its flesh to provide an anchor point while the arms and their protowings are rapidly flapped to stabilise the hunter and prevent falling. The jaws are used to tear into the prey and inflict injuries. Prey death is by shock and blood loss from the combined teeth and claw wounds while more skilled hunters will dispatch the prey with a targeted bite to the neck or spine.

Larger prey is hunted communally. While the sickle claw of dromae is still curved, unlike ancestral dinosaurs the base is straighter and the claw more pronounced at the tip, and the inner surface sharper. After cutting out and harrying a chosen large prey animal pack members will leap onto its back and flanks, avoiding the threatening front quarters where possible. Front and rear claws are used to grip the prey’s hide, sometimes supplemented by jaws, while one or both legs kick out with sickle claws to inflict deep injuries. Once the prey has been sufficiently weakened and dragged down the neck and throat can be safely targeted and the prey dispatched.

The scaled belly and inner thighs of the dromae is an adaption for this method of predation. A struggling prey animal is challenging to cling to and the smooth surface of feathers lacks grip. Contour feathers are likely to suffer significant damage by being scraped over rough hide while offering little protection in return as the hunter is shaken. The naked face reduces fouling by blood and offal as the dromae feeds, as it will be reaching deeper into the body cavity given the size of the prey. If crests were not such an important visual communication tool and if ancestral Arenicalia had scavenged more frequently, it is possible they would have lost their head and neck plumage all together as some distantly related species have done.

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