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Re: Suchomimus prey



A few thoughts on reading TRH2's rather good Suchomimus article in "Science"
Nov 13th 98, with fantastic pictures by Paul ?Top 50 beautiful person?
Sereno (& M. Skrepnick):

It made me realise the big claw, which I now see points down, would be well
suited to dealing with a fish once in the jaws.  They would have to pull on
the prey, and pulling up or forwards relative to the jaws wouldn?t suit the
configuration well, but pulling down would be easier, and would force the
prey against the teeth as when ripping cling-film against the edge of the
box.  Of course dry land theropods needed to separate mouthfuls from the
rest too, but they probably either stood on the rest and pulled up or just
flicked their heads crock style (or just pulled if the prey was huge).  The
trouble with flicking is that the bit that flies off may sink into the water
and disappear, and be much harder to find than in an equivalent situation on
land.  Maybe it paid Sucho to be tidier.  Maybe the skull wasn?t quite so
well suited to violent tugs or flicks either on or off land, not just in
terms of overall strength but in width - a good croc-style flick needs wider
jaws for better leverage and so sharper rotational acceleration and
deceleration.  But in any case the only ?pulling? methods it could have used
would have have been the one using the claws.  Of course modern fishing
birds manipulate the prey in their jaws without using the forelimbs, but if
forelimbs were present, it would have been better to  encompass the entire
object if possible instead of just spiking it, particularly with a fish,
providing some justification for the large digit.  This would not apply to
the capturing action where spiking would I guess be preferable, but
Suchomimus didn't use the hands for catching the fish.  Why the claw had to
be large and not just the whole digit seems less clear, but maybe cutting or
tearing was invovled, for which a claw with perhaps a sharper/harder edge
might have been better suited, though this doesn't seem to match what we
know of the claw particularly well.

As Tom says, the bony secondary palate would presumably have strengthened a
muzzle somewhat less robust than other theropods, but it might also have
helped stop water being blasted up its nostrils from the inside when making
a downward strike.  The eye-hole in the skull slants at an uncharacteristic
angle, which seems to me in other theropods to be vertical in the usual head
pose.  Maybe Sucho?s eye-hole angle is a hint that it habitually held its
head down at 60 degrees to the horizontal.


JJ