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Re: Humor: the Uses of Sickle Claws

On Tue, 30 Sep 1997 00:03:26 -0500 "Michael" <tons@ccs.netside.com>
>I wish to ask a question in the same vein as your answer.  Just why 
>can't these claws have multiple uses?  Dogs dig, scratch and run with 
>theirs.  Cats climb, hold prey, rip flesh, run and scratch with 
>theirs.  Yes, they're not dinos but I fantasize about Utahraptor 
>scratching with the hind claw, holding onto prey, slashing and 
>holding with front claws and support for running and ??climbing.
>Am I totally out of the mainstream for visualizing these creatures 
>doing most or some of the things others do today?  Honest question, 
>honest answer if possible.
You are absolutely right! It is unreasonable to assert that such a
utilitarian appendage has only one function. such cases do happen but are
rare. As for *slashing* per se, I'd question that was the actual use for
the claw.
The claw itself would have been rather large and had a thick
cross-section. The hides of their prey was also presumably thick and
resilient. The sickle claw seems like a poor knife.
When you look at how this animal was built you begin to see that the claw
was not in the best position to be used as an offensive weapon (at least
on a regular basis). The backs were stiff and held almost parallel to the
ground with the tail outstretched. The center of gravity was positioned
slightly ahead of the hips. In order to use the rear limb as a weapon,
the animal would have to lean backward and kick out with its weight
shifted behind its center of gravity. While not impossible, it would have
been entirely vulnerable and the position would be awkward enough that
dromies wouldn't have done it often enough to warrant the evolution of
such a weapon. Also, unlike Tyrannosaurs, the Dromeosaurs had long
functional forelimbs. 
It seems the sickle claw was more likely used to grip and tear the prey,
or to hold it down while being eaten. Such a claw would have also been
useful for climbing, grooming, scratching, and perhaps even digging. I
have seen illustrations of a *raptor flying through the air to slash at
its prey. Such a pose would most likely be struck while dropping from a
tree or other precipice which would also support the notion that the claw
was used for climbing. 
As a modern analogue, lions don't use their claws to slash their prey.
They grab onto it (with their claws) and bite it to death.
Something I know someone will say is that with the dromies powerful rear
limbs they could easily leap through the air to pounce on prey. this is
true, but even so the claws seem better suited to hanging on than just
slashing and hoping for a fatal wound. Most dinosaurs and their
contemporaries kept their bellies pointed at the ground, not out in the
open where a *raptor could get a clear swipe.
I'm not saying that the claw wasn't *ever* used to slash, just that it
was more of a swiss army knife than a switchblade.