(ORDO NEWS) — For a long time, paleontologists believed that the main function of the tail clubs of ankylosaurs, the armored dinosaurs of the Mesozoic era, was to protect against predators. But now it looks like they will have to change their mind.
Ankylosaurus , turning sideways to a ferocious predator and ready to strike him with a terrible blow with a heavy tail – this can be said to be a kind of paleontological cliché that can be found in the mass of books and films about dinosaurs.
Knowing how many carnivorous species these peaceful herbivores coexisted in the same territory, it is logical to assume that they needed a powerful defensive weapon.
While an Ankylosaurus-Tyrannosaurus clash is exciting for prehistoric fans, new evidence suggests that armored dinosaurs were more likely to turn their weapons against each other.
In particular, after examining the carapace of the Zuul dinosaur ( Zuul crurivastator ), researchers from the United States and Canada found that some of its impressive spines broke, but then the injuries healed.
Since only the spikes on the sides of the body were damaged, scientists assumed that this injury was not caused by a predator, because in this case the wound would be located on top.
The zuul’s tail was three meters long, its back part as stiff as a handle, and at the very end it grew into a pair of bone balls resembling a sledgehammer.
It is ironic that the species name of the dinosaur, crurivastator, means “shin crusher” in translation: the paleontologists who described the dinosaur suggested that he used his tail to protect himself from large predators.
Now, it seems that the main purpose of ankylosaurus tails will have to be reconsidered: although, no doubt, a defending dinosaur could use his mace against an advancing enemy, its main purpose, like that of deer antlers, was not to cripple a predator, but to defeat a rival claiming to occupied territory or a female ready for mating.
Other evidence of ankylosaur pugnacity exists, such as broken and healed ribs or damaged tails. Of course, the causes of such injuries could be very different – for example, during a flood, an ankylosaurus caught by the current was thrown against the rocks – but at least some of them were inflicted by angry rivals, sweepingly beating each other with maces.
By the way, it is curious that many millions of years after the extinction of the ankylosaurs, the giant armadillos dodicuruses also acquired a mace at the end of the tail and, judging by the characteristic fractures of the shell , used this weapon against each other.
However, this is not particularly surprising, because nature often solves similar problems in a similar way: what worked with ankylosaurs later came in handy for mammals.
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