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Re: tails for defense

Steve Jackson <sj@io.com>:

>Ahh. That raises an interesting point! Typical behavior for many herd
>mammals, when faced by a predator, is to form a circle with the young in
>the middle and the dangerous horns facing outward. It's easy to see
>ceratopsians doing the same thing if they had young to protect (though I
>also like the idea that they might just charge any potential predator on
>sight). But stegosaurs have all their offensive equipment at the other end. 

This assertion has appeared several times.  I have one observation
to make.  Having seen stegosaur skeletons up close and personal, I
would like to say that I _really_ would not want one to bite me. I
mean, I _really_ would not want one to bite me.  It may be small
potatos on the t-rex scale, but it could really take a chunk out of
something, you know?  :)

Actually, we have little idea how stegosaurus fought.  No animals I
can think of today have similar fighting equipment.  I observe, how-
ever, that a stego facing down some carnosaur might be expected to
spin around to bring the tail to bear:  and I _really_ would not want
to be on the recieving end of a 20-foot lever driving four three-foot
long spikes into me.  I would like that even less than being bitten,
to be frank.  Nor would I care to have a stegosaurus charge me in
reverse, whipping that tail back and forth - thoughtfully flipping it
at each end of the swing to bring the spike tips back in.  Just
because it was large and not very bright doesn't mean it had to be

One other point: correct me if I'm wrong (and I know you all will) but
stegosaurus was from the earliest age of dinosaurs - none of them ever
_had_ to face down a t-rex.  The carnosaurs of that age were not so
formidable as the ones that triceratops had to deal with.

>Would they circle up with their vulnerable little heads in the middle and
>wave their tails at the attacker? 

If they were herd animals, _I'd_ bet that's what they'd do.

Larry Smith