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Swinging sauropod necks for defense - tails appear better.

>>  From: Steve Jackson <sj@io.com>
>>  > A big, long, heavy horizontal neck would carry a lot of inertia, even
if it
>>  > didn't move very fast. Suppose a sauropod defense technique was to knock a
>>  > much smaller predator off its feet with a neck strike - not with the
>>  > head, but with the broad slab of neck - and then trample it? ... 
>>  > 
>>  > I'd like this better if we had any evidence of head horns or armor.
>Someone pointed out earlier that these strikes would be slow, and most
>smaller predators would be amply graceful enough to dodge them. And of
>course that's true. But *one* good hit, followed up by a trample, would
>take the predator off the sauropod's "Dangers to me and my babies" list, and
>out of its own gene pool. An attack that *will* finish you if it hits 
>would command some respect even if its odds were poor, and create
>selection both among the prey and the predator.
>Hmm. And if the neck-swinging sauropod is not itself the target of the 
>attack, but is hoping to blind-side a predator which is attacking another 
>member of the herd . . . ?  Just might work. And if the predator is 
>actually clinging to its intended prey, and is thwacked by a big heavy 
>neck - instant two-dimensional carnivore, no trampling necessary.
>Still, I concede that this is a Wild-Ass Guess about the utility of those 
>big necks. Easy to speculate, difficult to falsify, and I can't imagine 
>how it might be proved.
> Steve Jackson

Sauropod tails would have been much better suited to impacts than sauropod
necks.  Just compare the robustness of the vertebrae.  The neck bones go
much more for lightness, and the tail bones are more massive.  They could 
support much stronger muscles.  Also, the range of motion for the tail bones
is greater.

On a related topic:
I wonder  how giraffes protect their brains from whiplash during their own
neck duels?

Leslie Gertsch
Research Assistant Professor