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Re: Archaeopteryx, Othnielia & pachycephalosaurs

On Thursday, January 16, 2003, at 08:13 AM, Steve Brusatte wrote:

I *think* Goodwin's research showed that pachycephalosaurs likely didn't butt heads straight on, as the shapes of the skulls would have led to ineffective glancing blows. He used the analogy of two bowling balls hitting each other. The bowling balls are both thick and strong, but the spherical shape leads to a very small area of contact. This reduces the effectiveness of any head butt, as not only would it make the butt weaker, but it would also be more unpredictable (and likely more dangerous).

R. McNiell Alexander discusses the forces involved in pachycephalosaur head-butting in "The Complete Dinosaur" p. 422. He argues that the neck muscles of pachycephalosaurs could easily absorb any sideways motion caused by a glancing blow, so it probably wasn't dangerous.

So, what were the thick skulls used for? Some have said flank butting (i.e., just like head butting, but instead of two heads colliding, one pachy would smash its head into the flank of another, possibly a rival, but who can be sure?).

This is probably the best explanation, but we can never be certain.

The dome seems a bit extreme for flank butting, doesn't it? I think even my own noggin could withstand a bit of rib butting, and I'm only moderately bone-headed. :-)

John Conway, Palaeoartist

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman

Systematic ramblings: http://homepage.mac.com/john_conway/
Palaeoart: http://homepage.mac.com/john_conway/_palaeoart.html
Skeletals: http://homepage.mac.com/john_conway/_skeletals/