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Demigryphon usually depicted as a quadrupedal hybrid creature with a body of a Big Cat and a head of a Bird of Prey.

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Most Big Cats from which it derives its' body plan stalk and ambush their prey - it's the easy part. However they use their mammalian jaws with teeth to either crush the spine of smaller prey in the nape area or get a choking hold of bigger prey's neck and strangle them to death.

The last technique is seemingly impossible with a hooked beak common to most Bird of Prey. From what I understand Raptors don't hunt prey larger then themselves. Here's a quote from wiki on a Golden Eagle:

Overall prey weight has ranged from 10 g (0.35 oz) to at least 114 kg (251 lb),[34][35] although most prey taken are around half the weight of the preying eagle, with a typical prey weight range of 0.5–4 kg (1.1–8.8 lb) but mostly in the lower half of that range.

This is where our realistic depiction of a creature runs into a problem: Demigryphons are usually depicted as huge beasts(relative to modern day extant carnivorous animals) and presumably would require a high amount food to sustain itself making smaller prey inefficient in terms of energy required to hunt a higher amount of it.

Assuming it's a real creature with alternate evolutionary history and not a magically created hybrid how exactly and what kind of prey would it hunt?

Extra info:

  1. Can belong to Archosaur or a Synapsid clade of your choice, including alternate evolution.
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They don't choke them, they sever their spine, and will hunt much like a large tiger.

The first thing we have to take care of is the beak: most felines today don't exclusively use their claws to end prey, and thus the head will need to be of use in the taking down part. You're right that a beak is normally not what you think of when you think of a pair of mandibles used to choke a creature. However, when it comes to birds of prey, one of the best examples of a raptor that relies on its beak is the peregrine falcon.

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The triangular ridge you see near the tip of the falcon's beak is called a tomial tooth. These structures are needed for falcons because, unlike other raptors which rely a lot more on a crushing beak and long talons to kill prey, falcons use their beaks, adapted specifically to bite the prey's neck and sever their vertebrae, killing them fairly quickly. Of course though: this thing would need a slightly modified head with powerful jaw muscles to make sure the sharp beak can actually do the slicing, which makes a large head a good thing (the larger it is, the more space for muscle it has).

However, there's always the problem that the falcon isn't normally dealing with: having its prey consisting mostly of other birds and small rodents, it's beak rarely has to deal with biting a neck with a higher level of protection or that belongs to a larger struggling creature. On such a scenario, we have to step up the game, at which point your demigryphon might need a beak and jaw structure more like those of an alligator snapping turtle. enter image description here

The alligator snapping turtle is well known for 2 things: its fast and powerful bite and it's sharp, pointed beak, and while the falcon uses its beak more than other raptors, the turtle uses its jaws exclusively, being completely dependent on that very beak and powerful muscles to bite down on the fish it lures. The biggest differences in this arrangement are the more straightened, pickaxe-like tips of the alligator snapping turtle and its more robust jaw muscles, which when scaled up accordingly, could potentially allow your demigryphon to perform a more active stabbing movement like what we see in big game hunters, with the "hooked" tips of its beak playing the role of canines digging into the flesh (also, if thylacoleo, the marsupial lion, is something to go by, it's still possible to perform the stabbing part with more frontal, beak-like structures while having a hunting style closer to that of a modern large feline). On such a scenario with a more robust and sharper beak, as well as more powerful jaw muscles, we could, in theory, have a scenario where your demigryphon could still employ a vertebrae-crushing strategy on smaller prey, but the longer pointed extensions at the tips of the beak and powerful bite could probably make room for a feasible, although maybe not as efficient, throat grab strategy, with the powerful muscles handling the constriction of the airways while the hooks deal with puncturing vital blood vessels and ensuring a proper grip onto the throat.

Now, with the beak part dealt with, how do they hunt? Given these things have literal bird heads, I'd say they probably have similar structure and brain development in areas closer to those of a predatory bird than to those of a feline. This means sight and hearing will probably be the most important things for it, as many raptor species have these senses more well developed than their sense of smell and taste.

Basing myself on terror birds, the most notable example of large terrestrial predatory bird we have, the demigryphon would probably depend on keen sight and a great sense of hearing, particularly adapted for lower frequencies to track prey, meaning that it'd rely more on hearing its prey moving around and spotting it from far away than actually tracking it through smell. The raptor eyesight would make this thing pretty good at spotting creatures from an advantageous position, and the low frequency hearing would mean that it could both hear prey well and communicate from large distances, since lower frequency sounds travel further than higher frequency ones.

Regarding what it'd do when spotting prey, it's pretty obvious: its body and size implies it would hunt much like modern Bengal tigers in terms of strategy and behavior (funny enough, these big cats also rely more on sight and hearing than smell), as in it probably would hunt as a large ambush predator only capable of short distance pursuits at best, using its powerful limbs and large size to tackle prey to the ground and target the back of their necks with its powerful and sharp beak. Its large size would also allow it to scare off other smaller predators and scavengers, granting better access to carrion and free food when given the chance. Furthermore, its large size compared to the size of available prey probably means it'll also have to be solitary, staying away from others of its kind outside of mating season. An ill demigryphon will probably behave much like a man-eating tiger, it'll hunt humans out of desperation due to being ill or injured, and thus unable to hunt its normal prey and needing to go for smaller, slower game.

As for what it'd hunt, again we look at tigers. Its preferred prey would probably be large ungulates which live in areas of dense vegetation where it can approach them more easily, while staying away from larger animals it can't face on its own. More desperate demigryphons in regions with reduced big game numbers would go for smaller prey such as deer and wild boars, and very desperate/ill demigryphons would attack villages and eat people in there. It's also not crazy to consider them targeting larger livestock, since those are large, slow moving, AND cornered (if it does have the same capabilities of a Bengal tiger you know it's deceptively agile, even though it's not the speediest around). Demigryphons in regions with less vegetation might also be inclined to form hunting groups for a higher chance of success when hunting at the cost of smaller, although more frequent meals.

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    $\begingroup$ I was too preoccupied with Eagles that I forgot that not all Raptors kill with talons. However, from what I've gathered it's the stranglehold grip that allows big cats like tigers, cougars and leopards to kill prey of equal or bigger size. What you describe reminds me of Stoat killing technique but they and their prey operate on a much smaller scale which allows them traumafree wrestling. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Dzink
    Sep 26, 2021 at 20:37
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It Hunts Foliage

Your demigryphon looks just like a ceratopsian. While the gryphon's beak is definitely different, it's far closer to ceratopsian than any large predator I know. Hence the demigryphon is likely a similar creature, and at least is similar in diet

The specifics of the demigryphon have good explanations under this idea. The strong cursorial legs are really more dog-like up close, and only really look like a lion because of their power. The dog-like legs are for running from predators, with the sharp claws for digging and gaining purchase on loose ground. The rest of the traits seem to be just a matter of chance and choice

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    $\begingroup$ Hah, mistook this for a Willk answer for a moment. Nice idea, though ;-) $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2021 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ While it seems to be out of the box answer you have to take into account that most herbivores that "prey" on grass or other nutreint sparse vegetation require large and complex intestines to extract the most out of it. Which runs countrary to a sleek feline appearance. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Dzink
    Sep 26, 2021 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ @NickDzink There are a lot of herbivores that seem pretty slim to me. And there are many herbivorous birds with rather lightweight organs, which seem like they'd work in the demigryphon $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2021 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ @NickDzink there are some reasonably svelte herbivores out there... ones that have to be fast and agile. Some antelope, perhaps. Deer, mountain goats, etc. $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2021 at 20:31
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Blood Loss

Wolves beat prey to death with their teeth.

I'm going to say that again, because it's just so metal.

Wolves beat prey to death with their teeth.

When a wolf bites (often a large muscle like the quad) it applies tremendous force into the relatively small surface area of its teeth. The wolf generally does not kill in one bite, but rather strikes repeated at the prey animal's rear.

Each bite damages the underlying muscle, causing bleeding. Eventually the blood loss is enough that the prey cannot defend itself, and the pack moves in for the kill.

Since much of the blood loss is internal, due to pressure on a muscle, it's pretty similar to beating someone to death, hence my original statement.

External Bleeding

A beaked predator could use a similar pattern, but rely on external bleeded. The demigriffin tears several large gashes in its prey, and hounds it until it collapses from blood loss. Effectively persistence hunting, but using blood loss instead of overheating.

This could drive your demigriffin towards pack behavior - it's easier to strike at the rear if another hunter is distracting prey. It's also easier to deter other predators who are drawn by the scent of blood when you have teammates.

Happy hunting.

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They don't need to hunt game larger than themselves at all

No bird nor mammal can actually consume another animal more than ~1/4th its body size by itself in a single sitting. Nearly all predators that hunt prey larger than itself are pack animals. They kill big so they can share, but this is hardly a necessary strategy for survival. Instead of making your demigryphons pack hunters like lions, make them solo hunters like like tigers... or birds of prey.

So instead of going after big things like Buffalos and Zebras, your demigryphons may prefer smaller prey like Pigs, Sheep, Goats, White-Tailed Deer, and Humans: Things it can eat all on its own. This means it does not need such a specialized way of killing as you might have assumed up to this point.

But How Would They Kill?

Up until about a million years ago, there was a group of large flightless carnivorous birds collectively called Terror Birds that were native to South America. These birds could be 3-10ft tall depending on the species, easily putting them in the same niche as your demigryphons. The skeletons of Terror Birds suggest that their neck muscles were optimized for delivering a downward force, using its beak like pickaxe to stab/slash their prey to death; so, I suspect that your demigryphons being similarly armed and hunting similar prey would likely do the same.

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Savannah or livestock hunter

The tall grass of a savannah region would be able to obscure its approach before it goes for the charge and(assuming it follows the same golden-yellow colouring and feathering looks wheatish) could even hide in it until prey comes along, at which point either an ambush or chase ensues. The sort of large fauna of Afrika are basically the only natural herds that could feed such a beast. You could try your hand at the more arctic regions and areas where bison are but those are going to be considerably tougher living conditions and prey.

Alternatively it could live near humans and snatch livestock every once in a while. Though as many predators have learned doing that is sure to get you killed by uppity humans eventually.

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It is a scavenger.

It does not hunt at all. It finds things that are already dead and eats them entirely. Lesser predators with a fresh kill do not stand a chance against the demigryphon. It is easier to go kill something else than it is to make a stand against this thing.

The demigryphon will sometimes follow other predators around, waiting for one of them to kill something that it can then take. It also watches vultures in the air for signs of death, and will patrol the beach looking for edible things that have washed up.

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  • $\begingroup$ This omits earlier lifestages of Demigryphon's life when it's not big enough to engage in this behavior. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Dzink
    Sep 27, 2021 at 7:31
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    $\begingroup$ @NickDzink - my nephew is getting fed by his mom. He is bigger than she is already and no sign of stopping. That is how the Demis do it too. Maternal care. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Sep 27, 2021 at 17:19
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Construction rather than evolution

Having a mammalian body and a bird's head was no coincidence. This animal is actually a mix of synapsid and archosaur. It was not a result of evolution. Some 35,000 years ago, an alien scientist landed in Anatolia and experimented with various earthly animal genomes. He composed demigryphons as one of his variants. Most of these chimaera compositions died out, some of the species survived long enough to be seen/drawn by bronze age humans, or included in human mythology.

Like lions

At first, the demigryphons could thrive in certain areas, because there were no stronger predators. They could kill off competitors. Long before they became weapons of war for humans, demigryphons lived in packs, or troops. A lazy, superior predator that is able to run fast and crush cattle's spine with its claws.. and spend the rest of the day eating and guarding the prey.

Cuisine

The demigryphon developed a certain level of intelligence, a primitive culture of honour and war.. conservation and use of fire.. and a cuisine . The habit of preparing food solved an issue built into the demigryphon's physiology: it has a beak rather than a wide mouth with teeth. Unless all time is spent eating, a beak will not allow for enough raw meat to be consumed, to support the large body. The first solution found by the demigryphon was to cut the prey into many smaller pieces. Eventually, demigryphons developed preparation (roasting) of meat.

Humans

Demigryphons can be tamed. Humans did. It is dangerous work. To tame a pack of demigryphons, the human performs a loyalty ritual, which involves cooking a meal for them. After doing that, demigriphons will accept the human as part of their pack and form an alliance. The human has to conquer a leader position, by sharing more cooked meat. After he gains a position in the troop, the human can give directions, or ride the demigryphon.

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