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Re: DINOSAUR digest 504

 Nathan wrote:
> A whip-cracking dinosaur tail would
>presumably have dead skin, keratin or scales that could grow constantly and
> replenish what was lost due to wear.

Precisely. And by wearing away, wouldn't it protect the rest of the tail?
That is, doesn't the "crack" necessarily involve only whatever is at the
very tip?

I also played with a bullwhip when I was a kid in the country, and I'll
testify that against the right targets, you can get both "crack" and
effect. The supersonic speed of the cracking tip is just what it takes to
cut through a weed-stem, for instance.

I'd think that the popping tip of a sauropod tail would do real harm in a
predator's face. However, we know that they sometimes survived face bites
from conspecifics, so maybe a little thing like losing an eye didn't
discourage them. And putting the "pop" on a precise target, especially a
moving target, is a whole lot harder than just whacking the lash across
something. But . . . many animal species perform remarkable feats of aim
and dexterity. We can't say "But it would be *hard* to hit something with a
tail-crack" and then pretend we've settled the question. Observe an
archerfish sometime. Or watch a squirrel raid your bird feeder. Animals
evolve to do some very hard things, and make them look easy.

It's a fascinating theory, regardless of difficulties. Thank you, Nathan.

 Steve Jackson - yes, of SJ Games - yes, we won the Secret Service case
  Learn Web or die - http://www.sjgames.com/ - dinosaurs, Lego, Kahlua!
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