Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Scientists at Manchester University (UK) have discovered that a dinosaur traditionally regarded as one of the most violent actually used its giant razor-sharp claw to climb trees.
The velociraptor* was immortalised in Steven Speilberg's 1993 film Jurassic Park, where it was depicted as a vicious hunter that slashed open its prey's intestine with its sickle-shaped claw.
But palaeontologist Dr Phillip Manning from Manchester University and scientists from the National History Museum in London have discovered this fearsome-looking appendage was of little use for this purpose.
The researchers found a replica claw attached to the end of a robotic arm was better at hooking on to flesh than slashing it during a simulated attack.
They also replicated the dinosaur's hind leg motion and this led to the discovery it was better suited to climbing.
Full article at "Dinosaur claws used for climbing - research"
A related Natural History Museum report from 2005:
Scientists at the University of Manchester and the Natural History Museum have been studying the large foot claw found on small meat-eating dinosaurs such as Velociraptor and Deinonychus . These dinosaurs both belong to a group called dromaeosaurs.
The study has found that instead of slicing through flesh and disembowelling prey, as previously thought, the dinosaur primarily used its foot claw as a tool to hold on to and perhaps clamber over its victims.
The dromaeosaur's sharp serrated teeth would then tear into the flesh of its prey whilst clinging tightly to its victim. This is similar to the hunting techniques of modern day big cats, which use their protracted claws to cling onto their prey as their powerful jaws deliver the killer blow. (Continued)
*Info on Velociraptors:
Velociraptor (meaning "swift thief") is a genus of dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur that existed approximately 83 to 70 million years ago during the later part of the Cretaceous Period. There is only one universally recognized species, V. mongoliensis, although others have been attributed in the past. Fossils of this species have been found in central Asia, from both Inner and Outer Mongolia.
Smaller than other dromaeosaurids like Deinonychus and Achillobator, the turkey-sized Velociraptor nevertheless shared many of the same anatomical features. It was a bipedal carnivore with a long, stiffened tail and had an enlarged, sickle-shaped claw on each hindfoot, which is thought to have been used to kill its prey. Velociraptor can be distinguished from other dromaeosaurids by its long and low skull, with an upturned snout.
Due in large part to its prominent role in Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park and the subsequent motion picture series, Velociraptor (commonly shortened to 'raptor') is one of the dinosaur genera most familiar to the general public. It is also well-known to paleontologists, with over a dozen recovered fossil skeletons - the most of any dromaeosaurid. One particularly famous specimen shows a Velociraptor locked in combat with a Protoceratops.
3-D Animations of a Velociraptor and Protoceratops engaging in combat from the American Museum of Natural History.