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death pose



I had the most interesting conversation with an ostrich rancher and his wife 
regarding death poses in the ostrich. Standard dogma, which I had long accepted 
as true, is that the head and neck pulled back and legs drawn against the body 
pose of bipedal dinosaurs (especially theropods) due to drying of the nuchal 
ligaments. I had thought about testing this hypothesis with fresh killed birds, 
but just never got around to doing it. In fact, I don't think anyone has tested 
this hypothesis. It as been assumed that drying of the nuchal ligament was the 
cause. 

This ostrich rancher and his wife have both said that they have sat with a 
dying ostrich several times. Every time, as the bird nears death it will 
crouch, legs pulled against the body, and slowly pull its neck back in the 
"classic" deasth pose of dinosaurs. When it finally dies, it remains in this 
pose and rigor mortis soon sets in and locks it there. I questioned him about 
several points of this (being somewhat skeptical), yet the photograph does 
verify this. It may very well be then, that the so-called death pose in 
dinosaurs is not due to drying of ligaments, but a natural phenomenon - a 
pre-death form of rigor mortis. 

Ken