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Ceratopsian frills



Van and Kathy Smith wrote:

> On a completely different tact, is it possible that neck muscles attached
> to these frill sites?  For animals with such huge heads that were so
> obviously useful for combat, neck muscle attachments father out on the
> frill could possibly give these muscles a distinct leverage advantage.

This approaches my own explanation for frills.  It's easy to explain
almost anything if you aren't encumbered by facts.  :)

My explanation goes back to predators.  I don't think teeth were a good
way for a carnosaur to attack an animal weighing several tons.  (In our
world, it is apparently not feasible to prey upon the largest
plant-eaters.)

With its short, powerful neck, a dog can move its head with blinding
speed.  Wouldn't a carnosaur, with its much longer neck, have had
trouble being quick enough to bite uncooperative prey in a vital spot? 
How long could a carnosaur afford to fool around?  If modern crocs are
any indication, the tails of dinosaur prey could be lethal.

What bite will kill a large animal instantly?  In clinging to violently
moving big game, a big cat uses its claws to augment the strength of its
short neck.  Carnosaurs were long animals with long necks, and the
ultimate carnosaur, T Rex, had useless arms.  How did such predators
avoid broken necks or being thrown off?

In addition, I understand that T Rex's huge teeth were too fragile to
attack large living prey.

To avoid danger from a tail, I think a big carnosaur charged big game
from the side and disabled it by breaking its neck.   It appears that
the strength of a large carnosaur was concentrated around its rear
limbs.  I think such animals delivered devastating blows by leaping
feet-first, like a rooster or a martial-arts expert.  

Jumping this way would also have reduced a predator's vulnerability in
case the prey swung its tail in time.  Even if the carnosaur failed to
break the prey's neck, knocking the prey down would be a big advantage.

It seems that most Sauropod necks were only 2 or 3 meters off the
ground.  

Cretacious Ankylosaurs reverted to the low, wide-tracked sprawl of their
remote ancestors, as well as evolving short necks, closed skulls, and
large masses.  These sound like countermeasures to blows, not bites.

Ceratops also had short necks and wide, low sprawls.  They evolved large
masses.  

Wouldn't the frill have braced the Ceratops's neck against a blow from
the feet of a leaping predator?  Such a brace would have been
particularly effective if it were loosely attached to the torso, like a
shoulder blade.

How about the horns?  My goats have never used their horns against me,
but I don't dare lunge at a goat with abandon because I could impale my
eye or abdomen by accident.  This caution makes it much harder to catch
a goat.

I think the primary advantage of the Ceratops's frill was to brace the
neck against a blow by a leaping predator.  In addition, the horns would
have made such attacks risky. The Ceratops's big tail and nasty bite
would have discouraged more cautious attacks.

Did I make many errors?

[ Well, one mistake that may grate on some people here is your use of
  the word "carnosaur".  Tyrannosaurus was not a carnosaur; the way
  that you used the word I think you'd have been better off using the
  more general word "theropod".  I'll leave further analysis to
  others.  -- MR ]

- Stephen Throop