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At 10:29 PM 4/21/97 -0500, brucet@mindspring.com (bruce thompson) wrote,
anent _Mononykus_:

>        Could the beastie have been a specialized scavenger, rooting around
>in giant sauropod carcasses or some such?

We just dissected an adult male emu, _Dromiceius novaehollandiae_, my first,
courtesy of one of the local emu ranchers.  I was much impressed by the
single talon, a sharply curved keratin-covered hook about 60mm long if
straightened, at the tip of each of the animal's forelimbs.  

One does not ordinarily see this hook in living emus, concealed as it is by
the insulating plumes.  Emus are cursorial (up to 60 kmph) social omnivores,
eating everything from browse and graze to snakes (they even eat our
formidable trident sagebrush!).  I've been watching the rancher's stock
closely to see what the big forelimb talon is used for, but to no avail so
far (but the creatures are penned, so some hook-linked behavior may be

Unlike ostriches, emus do not display with their vestigial forelimbs.
Certainly, the atrophic emu "wing" is a far cry from the robust Mononykus
forelimb, and the long emu phalangeal hook likewise different from the
stubby hooflike Mononykus nail, but the question is parallel: why does the
emu need that long nail?  Why, similarly, the Mononykus with its far stouter

I'll keep an eye on these Aussie echoes of the Mesozoic.  

Have fun.  

John C. McLoughlin