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Re: ANKYLOSAUR CLUBS *



I've been talking to one of my firends at the zoo again (Ron Young, 
curator of mammals, Evansville Zoo).  The following is a summary of what 
he said about fighting with one's tail end:

Mammals engaging in agonistic behavior never initiate an attack with 
their rear ends.  They would rather see where they're going, so they face 
their opponent.  Aggressive behavior includes mainly biting and shoving, 
both of which are done best with the head.  Equines may get cross-wise to 
each other enough to kick in the heat of battle, but they do not kick 
during initial aggression.  When an animal senses it has lost the battle, 
it will "turn tail," and kick as it is running away.  This is defensive 
behavior, not aggressive.  An established underdog may turn its rear to 
an aggressor initially, but this is also defensive, and the attacker is 
coming head first.

Some animals on the run will wedge themselves head-first into 
semi-enclosed spaces, exposing only their rear ends, and kick to defend 
themselves.  This is partly because the hindquarters can take a lot of 
punishment without suffering a disabling injury [I neglected to ask Ron 
what animals this is].

Birds also turn tail only when retreating from a fight or predator.  The 
hope is that the attacker will get nothing more than a mouthful of 
feathers.  Of course, lizards do the same thing, and some can "sacrifice" 
the greater part of the tail to preserve the rest of the body.  

Crocodilians may attack with their tails, but they stay facing their 
opponents or prey, whipping their tails forward.  The obvious anatomical 
differences indicate that this is not a good analogy for ankylosaurs.

These observations suggest that, contrary to Rob's position, the analogy 
with mammals and other animals should be that ankylosaurs used their tail 
clubs only when fleeing, whether from each other or a predator.  


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Norman R. King                                       tel:  (812) 464-1794
Department of Geosciences                            fax:  (812) 464-1960
University of Southern Indiana
8600 University Blvd.
Evansville, IN 47712                      e-mail:  nking.ucs@smtp.usi.edu