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Re: Deinonychus claws; love 'em or leave 'em



Sam Girouard writes;

>        I'm glad someone brought this up. Breeding-related adaptions would
>seem to have the highest evolutionary "priority." After all, the basic
>design of all organisms revolves around the purpose of replicating
>themselves. Obtaining food and defense would be secondary functions of any
>given organ, but still significant factors. I bet a lot of them died in such
>battles, genetically favoring the swifter, bigger-clawed, and smarter
>individuals.

If the claw did have a purpose in fending off rivals, it would be used mostly 
for display and intimidation, rather than for heated combat.  In the animal 
world, actual physical combat between two rivals is a rare event; most 
challangers are dealt with through threat and bluff displays (bird song, for 
example).  In the autumn mating season, elk use their huge antlers to show off 
their strength and power.  It is only when the two bulls are equally matched 
that they "lock horns."  Even then, the idea is not to harm or kill the 
opponent, but to determine the stronger of the two.  In such encounters, 
serious injury is kept to a minimum (admittedly, injury does happen 
occasionally).

For good ol' _Utahraptor_, the threat and bluff displays would probably be even 
more intense.  Both animals carry powerful weapons; if they actually did come 
to blows, neither animal would be in good shape afterwards.

Rob Meyerson
Orphan Vertebrate Paleontologist

***
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new 
discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but  "That's funny ..."
       --  Isaac Asimov