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How Did Giant Theropods Break Their Fall?



 Hello everyone, I'm new here and this is may very first post.

The subject that currently interests me the most is the debate on whether or not short limbed, large theropods could survive a fall. The reason this interests me is due in part to the fact that I'm a martial arts instructor and breaking a fall is a big part of what I do. I know Farlow has stated in his work that a tyrannosaurus would likely die even if it fell at a stand still. I'm no physicist, but the idea that giant theropods would die so easily from a fall doesn't make sense when I consider their life style.

I know from actual fighting that most fights that involve any kind of grappling go to the ground, even when both fighters are trying to avoid doing so. When two people grapple, one usually loses his balance and falls, often pulling his opponent with him. Now unless ALL giant predators were scavengers, one would expect that these animals would fall quite often in the process of grappling with their prey. I say grappling because all theropods seemed to kill their prey by seizing them with their jaws and/or their claws. Giganotosaurus was larger than T-rex and tackled even larger prey. Giganotosaurus, even with its slashing teeth, would had to of locked its jaws into the flesh of its prey at least momentarily before tearing off a large chunk of skin and muscle. A sudden turn, or even a forceful bump from a 50-100 ton titanosaur could have knocked the giant beast to the ground. Since this is how giant theropods got their food, one would expect that they could survive a fall.

So, how did giant theropods prevent injury while falling? My guess is that they didn't, every fall probably resulted in broken or fractured ribs, but I don't think it would always be life threatening. They find broken and healed bones on theropods all the time, is it possible that many of these were from falls? My question is how did they prevent serious injury or death? You might be surprised to know that extending your arms to break a fall is one of the easiest ways to break your arm and least effective way to break a fall. While falling backwards or to the side, martial artists do not extend their arms at all, instead they relax their bodies and spread the impact over a wide area, often by slapping the arms against the ground at the same time the body makes contact. The only time the arms are used to break a fall is while falling forward. While doing a front breakfall, the arms are bent, not extended and the arms are used like a springboard. In every breakfall that martial artists use, the head is always elevated away from the ground during impact, this is to prevent head injuries.

The following are my guesses as to how giant theropods may have responded to falls from different angles.

Side Fall- This would probably be the most damaging fall for a theropod since some of these animals would in effect be falling 10 feet to the ground. To minimize injury, I imagine they would spread the impact over as wide an area as possible. Most of the shock would probably be taken by the thigh and body, followed by the tail. The neck would likely be bent away from the ground, with the head elevated as much as possible to prevent it from slamming into the earth. The animal would probably instinctively expel the air from its lungs at the moment of impact to reduce the shock and avoid internal injury.

Front Fall- I doubt this type of fall would cause any major injury since the animal is already in a horizontal position, with the pubic boot at most being 5 to 6 feet away from the ground. I imagine that if a T-rex stumbled while walking it would bend its knees while trying to regain balance, which would lower the pubic foot, knees and stomach even closer to the ground before impact, possibly only falling a few feet in the process. I think people forget that a t-rex is already horizontal and would not fall like a top heavy, upright human. I've always imagined that tyrannosaurs would land on their pubic foot and knees when falling, once again with the neck and head elevated away from the ground.

Falling While Running- If a giant theropod fell while running, I imagine it would instinctively try to lower its body as much as possible to the ground before making impact. The body would probably be kept level, so that when it hit, it would effectively skid across the ground. Contrary to what people think, if you fall right while running, you are less likely to be hurt than if you jumped straight into the air and landed on your back. The problem is that if there is a lot of friction, a tyrannosaur would likely roll head over tail, which I imagine could result in a broken neck. Humans, cats, dogs and many other animals avoid this by curling the neck and back to roll across the ground. Rolling can make a fall, even at high speeds, completely painless. Now I have no idea whether a T-rex or Giganotosaurus was flexible enough to curl its neck and back in such a fashion, maybe one of you know?

those are my thoughts. If you think my ideas are rather silly feel free to let me know =)

Sim Koning

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