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CERATOPIAN FRILL AS THERMOREGULATORY



Martin Westmeier wrote:

> I was a bit disappointed because nobody gave an answer to my 
> question about the frill of Triceratops.   

Well it has been mentioned on the list before, I guess you missed it. Reese
Barrick analyzed oxygen isotopes (O16 and O18 I think) gleaned from a
_Triceratops_ frill, and found significant differences in isotope distribution.
This lead him to suspect that the frill was thermoregulatory, but I forget the
reasoning. 

To my knowledge, this study has yet to be fully written up. It was
briefly discussed in one of our national newspapers (and Barrick was
described as 'a rather intelligent young man' - this does seem odd..)
and _Geology Today_ picked up on it from that. I don't have the refs
with me, but can post them in future if you wish.

If the ceratopian frill did serve a thermoregulatory function, and
perhaps it did, I find it very hard to see that it's design owes
itself to that end: to apply an Occamist viewpoint, surely it is far
more likely that the morphology is a product of functional mechanics
(with the display potential important too?). That can't be denied: the
question may be, are the two functions exclusive - and indeed they
probably are not (cf. foxes with big ears - both thermoregulatory and
acoustic functions). So I would doubt if Barrick, or anyone else
proposing a thermoregulatory function for the frill, would argue that
the structure was only for that function. Incidentally, apparently
there are a whole bunch of problems associated with interpretation of
isotope distribution that cast doubt on _some_ conclusions
(e.g. Thewissan's theory on early whales drinking fresh water), but I
can't begin to understand them.. anyone?

"Hurry up golden rod!"

DARREN NAISH