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Re: The uses of sickle claws

Chris Campbell wrote:

> Some on this list have brought up the hypothesis that sabretooths used
> their impressive teeth to tear out a prey animal's throat; I was
> wondering, why couldn't a dromy do the same thing?  If it were to attack
> an animal a good ten time its mass, it would seem easy enough to leap
> toward the base of the neck, lean over the body, and tear out the throat
> with the sickle claws.  Alternately, if the prey were bipedal or
> partially so the attacker could leap toward the front of the animal
> (very dangerous) and slash at either the belly or the femoral artery in
> the legs.  One good slash of the latter and the prey animal would be
> dead in a matter of minutes.  These methods would make taking down the
> prey much easier, and might allow smaller theropods to compete in a
> realm generally left to the multi-tonners.  These are highly specialized
> attacks, but no moreso than those proposed for _Smilodon_ and its ilk.


"Could the saber-toothed cats have bitten into the throat of a large
ungulate without risk of damage to their teeth? The illustration shows a
schematic section through the neck of a typical horse, with the skull of
_Megantereon_ biting at the throat. Notice how the vertebrae of the horse
are arranged toward the back of the neck, and how near the surface of the
throat are the windpipe and major blood vessels. With the animal held
immobile by strong forequarters, even relatively superficial slashes into
the neck would produce considerable blood loss and induce shock, and
choking off the air supply would be relatively easy. Such a technique would
avoid the need for the violent and rather inaccurate stabbing implied by
some older ideas about how machairodonts dealt with their prey."

For machairodonts, the key factors to the success of this technique are the
ability of the cat to immobilize the prey with its strong arms and the
cat's primary attack weapon, its massive jaws. Since dromaeosaurs are
relative light-weights, they would not be able to immobilize their prey in
the manner of a cat. Also, the type of precision attack you describe for
dromaeosaurs would seem to be ineffective against a moving target (i.e., a
running, thrashing tenontosaur).  IMHO, I can't see how any of this is
applicable to dromaeosaurs.

Brian (franczak@ntplx.net)