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Paul Sparks wrote:
>Cats (felines) will grasp their prey with the front claws and then tear
the hell out of it with the ped claws... I can easily see the same (but
better) use of the big sickle claws on these dinos (referring to

 Brian Franczak wrote:
 > It's far easier to shred something with eight claws (cats) than it is
> two (dromaeosaurs). There is a great difference between the paddle-shaped
> foot of a cat and the tridactyl foot of a theropod: design-wise, they are
> not comparable as "weaponry".

That's right.  It is in the characteristic cat kicking action (often
performed on the ground) and the shape of individual claws that these
animals may bear comparison. Now, let's discuss how their pedes differ. 
Instead of spreading out the force among four short claws, the kicking
dromaeosaur concentrates the power of its largest muscles onto one huge
claw per pes.  And in some fighting positions, the full weight of the
dromaeosaur could have borne down upon this huge cat-like claw.  Would one
sleep more comfortably on a bed of many small nails or on a bed arrayed
with spikes that were larger but fewer in number?  Would not the same force
(the weight of one's body) drive the fewer, larger spikes deeper? 
Likewise, I would expect the concentration of dromaeosaur muscle and mass
on the two huge "khukri" claws to inflict deeper wounds than the
lacerations produced by a comparably sized cat would.  Why else would
evolution favor such formidable weaponry in dromaeosaurs?  

If you prefer, think of the dromaeosaur as being a long-necked jackal with
a long snout arrayed with blade-like teeth, possessing the forelegs of a
leopard (but with wing-like articulation) with three huge claws and
elongate phalanges, the hindlegs of a cassowary but with the second toe
replaced by a gigantic cat's claw, the tail a long balancing rod, highly
flexible at its base.  A flawed "analogy," to say the least, which
illustrates the fact that there is obviously <nothing> alive today that
quite compares.  Gregory S. Paul has likened _Velociraptor_ to extinct
sabre-tooth cats in that its outsize weapons put it into a class all by
itself.  And noone questions the capability of a lone sabre-tooth to kill
large game. 
> There is also a difference between flaying
> flesh and disemboweling. Is there any evidence of a pride of lions taking
> down prey larger than themselves and then all together disemboweling it
> with the claws on their feet?

As stated above, I see cats as being limited in their utility as
dromaeosaur analogs.  Cats are best known for delivering a precise killing
bite, either on the throat (as in lions) or the nape of the neck. 
Dromaeosaurs no doubt made good use of their slashing teeth, but not in the
same way as lions do.  The "kitty cat kick" practiced by smaller cats is
what we are considering here (wherein the feline grabs hold of another cat,
a human arm, or its intended prey, with both manus while raking the
opponent furiously with the claws of both pedes).  It is by no means the
only viable dromaeosaur attack option worthy of discussion.  And while we
love to throw terms like "disemboweling" around, I see no reason to exclude
discussion of hacking into any vulnerable areas of the prey, particularly
if you can deeply damage muscles, airways, and arteries in the process. 
Flaying flesh or disemboweling?  Can't we have both?

Although we may never know for sure if roving packs of _Deinonychus_
habitually took down _Tenontosaurus_ individuals, the remains of both have
been found together.  Think of _Deinonychus_ as a scavenger, if you like. 
The point is that with bigger weapons, you can subdue larger prey, even if
only by bloodletting.  The Toogreeg fighting dinosaurs provide the only
example we have of a dromaeosaur fossilized in action (with a
_Protoceratops_ specimen, in this case), and (as I've stated previously)
may imply just the sort of cat-like behavior Paul Sparks and I propose, the
main difference being that the single huge killing claw on each pes ought
to make this type of strike much more effective for the dromaeosaur (than
for the cat), whether the former used its claws for stabbing or lacerating
(or both).  

What, then, do <you> think the dromaeosaurs were doing with those big
> (An aside: my cat Spot comes into my studio several times a day, flops
> her back, and lets me vigorously rub her tummy; her claws *never* come
> play)

(My cat, Pippin, is not similarly repressed.  Perhaps your cat makes an
especially poor analog for modeling dromaeosaur behavior).
Ralph Miller III <gbabcock@best.com>