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Re: Dinosaur Questions

>Was the spinosaurus's sail used for protection or battles?

Probably neither.  The tail spines on the back were very slender, and so
would probably break if another dinosaur attacked or if it somehow tried to
attack with them.  The sails were probably either a heat-exhchange
mechanism (warm it up when it was cool, cool it down when it was hot)
and/or a display structure (like the tail of a peacock or the hood of a

>When the sail was straight, what was it doing?

The sail of Spinosaurus could not move.  It was formed from greatly
exaggerated neural spines (the part of the vertebra that sticks up).

>Did the bactrosurus have a sail on its back?

Probably not much of a sail.  Many of its group (the lambeosaurine
hadrosaurs, or "crested duckbills" [although Bactrosaurus probably didn't
have a crest]) have tall neural spines, but at most they formed a ridge
down the back, not a big sail.

>What were the insects of late Jurassic period?

Someone else might have a better list, but basically most kinds of insects
were already around by the Late Jurassic.  However, the giant dragonflies
of the Coal Age were long extinct at the time.

>Could Deinonychus swim?

Dogs and horses and elephants and humans and ostriches can all swim, even
though none of us are particularly well designed for it.  I expect
Deinonychus could swin, as well.

>Was Deinonychus warm-blooded?

Ah, the Big Question...  The possibility of dinosaurian endothermy
("warm-bloodedness") is one of the most contentious points in dinosaur
research.  However, I think it would be safe to say that most
paleontologists would agree: if any dinosaur was warm-blooded, it was
probably Deinonychus and its relatives.

>Did triceratops use its mouth the tear down trees?

If any dinosaur could, it was probably a big ceratopsid like Triceratops
and Torosaurus.  Triceratops jaws are designed for a shearing function, but
I wouldn't be surprised if they ripped up vegetation (maybe bushes and
ferns more than trees) with their jaws.  Some big modern and extinct
mammals (elephants and their relatives, giant ground sloths, etc.) push or
pull down trees to eat, so it is not impossible ceratopsids did something
similar (push them over with their skulls?).

>Was dimetrodon's sail used to attract mates or to appear fierce?

Probably. ;-)  Either of those options would be reasonable.  Additionally,
it may have been used as a heat-exchange system (see Spinosaurus above).

>Was pterodactylus an omnivore?

Pterodactylus teeth do not look like they were good for processing plant
matter (although some other pterosaurs have beaks like fruit-eating birds).
Pterodactylus seems more likely to have been a fish and insect eater.

>Did pterodactylus have a pouch to store food??

Can't remember if the genus Pterodactylus has evidence of a throat pouch
(it does sound right), but some pterosaurs (and the dinosaur Pelecanimimus)
show definite traces of a pelican-like pouch.

>Was tyrannosaurus rex a scavenger?

Probably.  It was also probably a predator.  Very few carnivores are
strictly one or the other.  I interpret the anatomy of T. rex and its
relatives as being sufficient for active hunting; Jack Horner would

>Did parasaurolophus really have 2,000 teeth?

All hadrosaurids (duckbills) have a "dental battery" - a series of teeth
continually pushing upward, forming a nice grinding surface.  However, only
one tooth per vertical row is being used at a time.  I've never sat down to
count all of them, but I would suspect the number of teeth forming or
formed at any given time in a hadrosaurids jaw is less than 2000.  Does
anyone out there know the original source of this number?

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.                                   
Vertebrate Paleontologist in Exile                  Phone:      703-648-5280
U.S. Geological Survey                                FAX:      703-648-5420
Branch of Paleontology & Stratigraphy
MS 970 National Center
Reston, VA  22092