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RE: Neck Biomechanics in Flamingoes

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-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Taylor [mailto:mike@indexdata.com] 
Sent: 26 January 2004 15:11
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: Neck Biomechanics in Flamingoes

Dear DML,

I happened to have a couple of hours to kill in Paris last Friday, so
I spent them at the Natural History Museum's Gallery of Palaeontology
and Comparative Anatomy.  That turned out to be a good choice for all
sorts of reason, but one of the most striking things was a mounted
skeleton of a flamingo, and particularly its neck.

There's a good photo at the top of the web-page at
(The page is in Dutch, but the picture aren't :-)

If you move your mouse over the picture, it zooms in on the neck.  If
your browser doesn't do that (e.g. you have JavaScript turned off),
you can see the magnified image at

You'll immediately notice that it doesn't merely have low neural
spines as many birds do (I've always been surprised at how low
ostrich's spines are, for example), but none at all in eleven of the
thirteen cervicals, and only the merest hint or a dorsal ridge on the
proximal three.  Not only that, the vertebrae lack zygopophyses,
diapophyses, any kind of lumps at all.  They are merely long, thing,
featureless cylinders.

So the obvious question is: how the heck does it hold its neck up?
There's nowhere for muscles to attach, and even if they did, there's
no leverage for them apply.  Yet of course it _does_ manage, and not
only that but it carries a pretty big head, too.  I've previously
suggested that the most parsimonious explanation for how
_Mamenchisauris_ held its neck up with such low spines is Magical Rays
>From Outer Space -- see
but from personal observation of flamingoes in zoos, they do not
appear to be using this adaptation.  So what _are_ they doing?

 _/|_    _______________________________________________________________
/o ) \/  Mike Taylor  <mike@indexdata.com>  http://www.miketaylor.org.uk
)_v__/\  "If you really want to be a writer, develop calluses on your
         pride" -- Adrian Bedford.

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