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Dann Pigdon wrote:

> I'm looking at a cast of a Deinonychus claw right now, and compared
> to the general shape of theropod claws from the manus it is quite
> distinctly thin and blade-like. I doubt it bore a razor edge, but
> I can see it being forced in between the ribs and creating havock
> with the internal organs.

This is exactly the problem I've always had with the "slashing,
disemboweling" depiction of hunting dromaeosaurs. That the claw could be
"forced in between the ribs" and create havoc with the internal organs only
seems likely if the prey animal stands there unmoving, allowing the
dromaeosaur to perform this rather precise action. What prey animal will
stand there while it is being eviscerated by its hunter? In reality, the
running?, struggling? prey would not be so sedentary. How, then, does the
hunter perform this type of "precision surgery"? It would seem to me that
more often than not, the raptorial claw(s) would simply be raked over the
ribs and gastralia, probably damaging the claw in the process. And the
prey's moving thighs would seem to preclude easy access to its unprotected
(by ribs) flanks.

Raptors use their claws to grasp (and sometimes squeeze) their prey. I
envision a similar function for dromaeosaur "sickle" claws. Raptors are not
cursorial animals, and retract their claws somewhat when moving about on
the ground. Dromaeosaurs, on the other hand, *are* cursorial animals. The
claws on metatarsals III and IV are relatively blunt; the claw on
metatarsal II is remarkably similar to a true raptorial claw, and could be
perfectly utilized to simply pierce and hold onto small, struggling prey.
That dromaeosaurs kept that claw retracted (at least to *some* degree) to
keep the tip sharp seems, IMHO, inarguable.

Brian (franczak@ntplx.net)