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Velociraptors - climbers
guess we'll have to remake the JP movies...
ACCORDING to Jurassic Park, everyone's favourite fleet-footed predators
dispatched their prey by disembowelling them with deadly "killing
claws"Movie Camera. Not so, say palaeontologists who have studied the
biomechanics of Velociraptor claws. Instead, the notorious dinosaurs used
their claws to cling to prey and to climb trees.
Phil Manning of the University of Manchester, UK, and colleagues
previously showed that Velociraptor's sharp-tipped foot claw could
puncture skin and help the dinosaur cling to wounded prey but was not
sharp enough to rip the skin open. Now an analysis of the biomechanics of
the hand claw suggests it could have supported the dinosaur's weight when
it was climbing.
Manning suggests Velociraptor used its climbing ability to perch in trees
and pounce on prey from above, with its claws puncturing the skin so it
could cling to its victim's body while biting and subduing it. He points
out that Microraptor, a tiny dinosaur in the same sickled-clawed
dromeosaur family as Velociraptor but which lived some 50 million years
before, had four feathered limbs to help it glide down from trees. "The
leg and tail musculature show that these animals are adapted for climbing
rather than running," he says.
Peter Makovicky, a palaeontologist at the Field Museum of Natural History
in Chicago, says smaller ancestral dromeosaurs such as Microraptor may
have been climbers, but their descendants adapted the claw for other
purposes, such as latching onto prey, much as big cats with their sharp,
curved claws do today.
You see the same claw shape in the dromeosaurs Utahraptor and
Achillobator, both of which could grow to 6 metres long and weigh several
hundred kilograms, Makovicky says. "You'd be hard put to find a tree they