Friday, July 26, 2013

Pacific Rim and Kem Kem's Water-Loving Theropods

Striker Eureka vs. Otachi in a promotional poster for Pacific Rim
I just went to see the new blockbuster Action/Sci-Fi/Mecha,/Kaiju movie Pacific Rim on Wednesday, and by God it was awesome. It was by no means the best movie ever, being plagued with numerous stereotypes and clichés (and I heard some complaints of bad acting, but I didn't really notice that when I watched it), but for the most part it stood up very well. It had great CGI, cool Kaiju and Jaeger designs, and it knew exactly where, when, and what to do to please the audience, so I found myself thoroughly enjoying the experience, and I recommend the film to everybody even remotely interested in the concept. You won't leave the theater disappointed.

Director Guillermo del Toro took his inspiration from Japanese animes and Kaiju movies, and I could definitely see the resemblance to the former. I watch anime when I can, and many of the characters in Pacific Rim (despite undoubtedly being stereotypes) had an uncanny resemblance to characters in animes I had seen before. This was probably intentional on Guillermo's part. I also noticed some resemblances to Evangelion, an anime series with a similar story of giant monsters called Evas fighting human-powered mechas in order to protect the world. Other people have also noticed the similarities, but apparently Guillermo had never seen Evangelion, so all these parallels are probably coincidental.

Despite having seen numerous animes though, I've barely seen any Japanese Kaiju films before, so I couldn't see if there were any parallels there (other than, well, the fact they both have giant Kaiju in them). Maybe after seeing this movie it will encourage me to start watching some more Kaiju films. Hmm, I have always wanted to watch the original Godzilla movie.

Here's a funny story though. I've been watching another anime right now called Attack on Titan. It's about giant humans called Titans that eat normal-sized people alive just for fun, and how the last piece of humanity has been driven back into the dark ages and forced to retreat behind three giant walls that were built to keep the Titans out, but that's besides the point. The main antagonist's name in that show is Eren Jäger, whose last name has the same root as Pacific Rim's mechas, both being derived from the Germanic word for hunter (Jäger). *Spoiler Alert* This is also ironic seeing as mid-way through the show Eren learns he has the ability to transform into a Titan, and he uses his power in order to fight off the Titans as they slowly try to break their way past the walls to devour the people hiding within. So all in all, Attack on Titan and Pacific Rim are both about giants trying to annihilate the human race and both have heroes named Jaeger that are trying to protect what's left of it. Kind of left me confused...*Spoiler Ends*

There was, however, one HUGE problem with Pacific Rim that seriously brought down the movie for me. Watch this scene and you'll know what it is:

Eh, I would devote this whole post to ranting about that one scene, but luckily, Darren Naish on Tetrapod Zoology did it for me, as well as talk about a lot of other cool aspects of the movie. Be sure to check that out when you can.

Now, onto important science-y things...

I made another video a few days ago which I posted on YouTube, this one concerning the Kem Kem beds in Morocco. I was inspired to make this due to a lot of work being published on those beds, notably a paper that came out a few months back by Emilie Läng and others, called Unbalanced food web in a Late Cretaceous dinosaur assemblage. I was able to read it about two weeks ago and was inspired to look more into the ideas presented. I then learned that Dale Russel suggested in 1996 a similar theory, I read a post by Duane Nash at another small blog called Antediluvian Salad on the topic, and I had a chance to watch an Attenborough documentary about the effects of the Salmon Run in Canada and what it does to the local predator populations. By the end of that, I had enough info for a video, so I made one. Voila:

It's an interesting idea, and while I'm not completely persuaded by all of its points, nevertheless I do like the theory and I have no particularly big reason to doubt it based on current evidence. Besides, the image of a Carcharodontosaurus ripping a shark out of the water is just dang cool. Land sharks vs. Sea sharks. :P

I've already gotten a lot of attention via PMs and comments about the theory, with people telling me why they agree or disagree with it. I'd like to hear your opinions about it too, so be sure to leave a comment and feel free to make a suggestion for future topics. Until next time...stay sharp, everyone! ;)


  1. Excellent video it has a great pace/edit/and thrust to it. One other thing I would like to add is the idea that spinosaurs were likely the keystone species here for other theropods. Among the theropods it was the only one that showed some obvious adaptations towards piscivory and was the best fish catcher. Other theropods, although no doubt fishing for themselves some times, likely scavenged or directly usurped spinosaur catches. Secondly it always peeves me when spinosaurs are referred to as "mere fish-eaters". I'm sorry those sawfish could eviscerate you just as well as a triceratops' horn and some of those coelecanth fish were as armor plated as ankylosaurs. Throw in a bunch of crocs, marine reptiles, pterosaurs, turtles, and intraguild predation and there is plenty of food for theropods. I do wonder if the Kem-Kem, and the early Cretaceous in general, represent a golden age of anadadromous fish with all those high epicontinental seas.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, and thank you for your interesting your post on the topic, which really encourages me to talk about the idea. :)

      Yes, I recall from your post your suggestion that spinosaurs were a keystone species, offering as a link between the land theropods and aquatic animals. However, I did have one problem with that, as we now know that spinosaurs were aquatic animals on the same level as seen in crocodiles and hippos. Thus, it would seem more probable at least to me that they would feed and hunt within the water like crocodiles, and not often provide opportunities steal or scavenge for the large, land-based theropods.

      I instead think that perhaps the other theropods in Kem Kem were hunting mostly for themselves, or stealing/scavenging from each other, but that is just my take on it.

      Also, while I undoubtedly believe that spinosaurs were mostly piscivores, I have made it clear in previous posts on these animals that I really do believe they were generalists, and I'm always promoting the notion online. Indeed in many of my discussions online I bring up the same exact points structure was you, and fish scales (especially cosmoid scales) are some of the hardest structures produced by vertebrates. Spinosaurs teeth also show a lot of wear, which is evidence enough that they were biting into hard things quite frequently.