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Re: Dino reputation 'is exaggerated'
Do we know enough about the keratin exterior to assess the function of this
"Dino Guy" Ralph W. Miller III
Docent at the California Academy of Sciences
proud member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
----- Original Message -----
From: "Allan Edels" <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2005 9:08 AM
Subject: Dino reputation 'is exaggerated'
>From the BBC:
Dino reputation 'is exaggerated'
The dimensions of the hydraulic limb reflected what is known from the
The _Velociraptor_ dinosaur made famous by the Hollywood movie Jurassic
Park may not have been quite the super-efficient killer we all thought.
Like other dinos in its family, it had a distinctive sickle-shaped claw on
the second toe which many have assumed was employed to disembowel victims.
But tests on a mechanical arm suggest this fearsome-looking appendage was
probably used just to hang on to prey.
UK scientists report their experiments in the journal Biology Letters.
"This dispels the myth in place for some 40 years that this was a
disembowelling claw - this is not the case," says Dr Phil Manning, from
the Manchester Museum, University of Manchester.
"I'm saying that the primary function of this claw was to hold on to the
prey, effectively like a climber's crampon," the curator of palaeontology
told the BBC News website.
_Velociraptor_ belonged to the Dromaeosauridae, a family of small to
medium-sized, lightly built and fast-running dinosaurs from the Cretaceous
Period (146 million to 65 million years ago) who appear from the fossil
record to have been very effective predators.
There is even evidence some, such as _Deinonychus_, hunted in packs.
They all possessed a large, curved claw on their big toes that could
rotate through an arc in excess of 200 degrees.
By kicking and slashing, it has been widely thought these creatures could
quickly open up their unfortunate victims, either killing them outright or
making them bleed so profusely death followed very quickly.
Dr Manning and his team tested the reputation on a robotic arm fitted with
a life-like Dromaeosaur claw. The set-up was based on detailed fossil
The mechanical limb mimicked the sort of kick that might have come from a
2m-long, 40kg _Velociraptor_. The Kevlar and carbon-fibre-coated aluminium
claw was thrust into the flesh from pig and crocodile carcasses.
Instead of producing the expected slashing wounds, the robotic impacts
created only small, rounded punctures.
What is more, the way the skin tissue bunched under the impacts prevented
the claw from withdrawing easily.
The punctures had a depth of about 30-40mm.
"It seems highly unlikely that wounds of this depth would have posed a
danger to the vital organs of a large herbivorous dinosaur, though they
would obviously be fatal to small prey," the team writes in Biology
Dr Manning does not want people to think less of _Velociraptor_ or
_Deinonychus_ because of the research.
Its killing efficiency may not have matched their Hollywood image but the
creatures would still have presented a terrifying prospect.
"It's effectively like a fatal embrace," he told the BBC News website.
"These claws were used to hook into the flanks of prey larger than them so
the jaws could do the despatching.
"Imagine the scene: it's the Lower Cretaceous, and Tenontosaurs (large,
plant-eating dinosaurs) are grazing on ferns or cycads, going about their
everyday business," he added.
"Unbeknown to them, you've got a pack of predators stalking them.
"First, [the Dromaeosaurs] try to separate the animal they wish to kill by
running into the pack.
"The lead attacker then jumps on to the flanks of the animal, followed by
maybe two or three others, hooking the huge claws in their feet into the
animal and holding on with the re-curved claws on their hands.
"And once they're hooked into their prey, the razor sharp teeth of their
jaws go to work causing as much blood loss as possible to weaken the
"Eventually, the other animals come over for the kill, probably ripping
open the throat and stomach with their teeth - not their claws."
The results of research were first shown on The Truth about Killer
Dinosaurs, a BBC television production.
Note that these numbers are for _Velociraptor_, not the larger