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> I'm convinced that the forelimbs of alvarezsaurids were used for
> *something*, and that *something* was associated with diet. After
> all, the forelimbs weren't THAT small. Reduced though they were, they
> certainly extended well beyond the body wall. Plus, the arms were
> operated by a powerful musculature. I'm just not convinced the
> forelimbs were used for digging into termite-mounds or ant-nests.
Can you name one extant vertebrate that has undergone an extreme reduction of a
limb or any other body part in its evolutionary lineage, in which that body
part played an important role in feeding?
In other words, when a lineage of animals undergoes extreme reduction in a
body part, isn't that body part usually becoming LESS pivotal in survival
rather than more?
I can't think of a single one.
Do you guys ever imagine a scenario where all hominoids, including humans, are
extinct, and a group of alien paleontologists who used logic like we use on the
DML interpreted their fossils? What would they come up with? They might
conclude that hominoids were using their reduced tailbones to dig snails out of
their shells. After all, coccyx means cuckoo beak, so human tailbones are
strongly convergent with the European Cuckoo, which has been reported eating
snails. There are large gluteus muscles attached to each side of the coccyx to
drive the point of the tailbone with shell - cracking force. That beak - shaped
tailbone is so highly conserved across apes that snail eating must have been
crucial factor in the apes diverging from the monkeys, as well as in human
evolution and success.
It is also possible that the human tailbone was used to tear open termite
mounds, as it projects as far from the sacrum as alvarezsaurid arms projected
from their sterna. The humans just sat on the termite mounds, and their coccyx
tips probed for openings, then flaked off the concrete - hard matrix, while
angry soldier termites swarmed over the humans' bodies. In Homo sapiens there
is an unusual hyoid morphology which probably indicates a long, sticky tongue
that they used to lap up the termites once they were done digging.
Senior Principal Preparator
American Museum of Natural History
(212) 496 3544