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Re: spinning stegos

John Clavin wrote:

> I'm sorry, but I just can't buy that.
> I think you're overestimating predator speed, and underestimating the
> Stegosaurs. Any creature so slow that a predator could just nip around the
> front wouldn't last long enough as a species to leave significant fossil
> remains, without being massively armoured.
> I'm not talking about distance running here, rather a headlong terrified
> dash of probably only tens of meters. Any more than that and the greater
> endurance of the predator would give it a huge advantage.
> Think about the way predators attack - they tend not to charge prey at full
> speed, but instead sprint at top speed to just outside striking distance,
> match pace with the prey for a couple of strides (to size up the best attack
> point) and then lunge. If your quarry was waving four - eight hard spikes in
> your face, it might make you think again about attacking. A predator needs
> to be able to kill again and again with out getting hurt, just to survive.
> Put significant danger in the way and the risk becomes too great.
> I have no argument that Stego probably could do a quick turn, I think it's
> quite likely, especially if combined with a sweep of the tail to get some
> momentum up. I just don't think it's a viable defence. An aggressive defence
> like that needs to be controlled, which means the creature must be able to
> see what's going on. A Stegosaur looking backwards has a huge blindspot. Bad
> defence strategy. The vast majority of aggressive defence strategies are
> front oriented.

Not necessarily, depends on the effectiveness of the rearward defense and how
easily it can be brought into play.  Let's take for an example the common
skunk.  Very effective rearward defense and a very slow moving animal.  Any
predator can outrun it without difficulty. Why?  It doesn't run away, it just
keeps it rear pointed in the direction of the predator.  Yes, it has a blind
spot, but it seems to work wonderfully well.  The only animals that I know that
effectively hunt skunks on a consistant basis are owls because they can come in
from above without the skunk hearing them.  I think the stego may have
functioned in a similar fashion using its tail spikes rather than a
horrible-smelling spray of course.
But I definitely agree with you that most aggressive defenses are forward facing
for good reason.  That's what makes the stego so interesting to me.
Another point that someone made to me today concerning this was that if stegos
traveled in pairs, they could stand facing the opposite direction so that the
tail of one protected the anterior end of the other.  Interesting mated pair
strategy, I thought.

Joe Daniel