Saturday, October 15, 2005

Velociraptor: Killer Claws or Climbing Crampons?

Dinosaur killer claws or climbing crampons? 2005. Phillip L. Manning, David Payne, John Pennicott, Paul M. Barrett, Roland A. Ennos. Biology Letters

Dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaurs possess a strongly recurved, hypertrophied and hyperextensible ungual claw on pedal digit II. This feature is usually suggested to have functioned as a device for disembowelling herbivorous dinosaurs during predation. However, modelling of dromaeosaurid hindlimb function using a robotic model and comparison of pedal ungual morphology with extant analogue taxa both indicate that this distinctive claw did not function as a slashing weapon, but may have acted as an aid to prey capture.

From comes this story:

Velociraptor, 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.

"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.

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 measurements.

Images from HERE.