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Re: bipedal lunges

Dann Pigdon wrote:
> Toby White wrote:
> >
> > After mulling over the comments of John Calvin and Bill, I concede.  What
> > I'm struggling with is the physical and tactical difficulty of a "charge" by
> > a ceratopsian combined with the highly variable geometry of the offensive
> > armament.  For actual defense against predators, how do we get the horns, or
> > even the beak, into play while still -- literally -- allowing the
> > ceratopsian to cover his ass?  That's a big, vulnerable target, no matter
> > how well-protected the head.  Either the backside is never exposed (e.g. by
> > stolid group defense) or there's some way for the beast to turn rapidly.  I
> > was trying to come up with a behavior which would allow some of both.  What
> > are the other alternatives?
> >
> >   --Toby White
>         This is the same dilemma faced by Cape Buffalos if they
> are attacked by lions (which isn't very often). 

See Botswana; there are a few prides who regularly take both elephants
and water buffalo.  I still say they're nuts, but . . .

> As a group the buffalos can intimidate lions enough to prevent 
> being hunted, but if a single buffalo is separated from the herd 
> then the lions may have a chance. 

This is rarely the case outside of the prides mentioned above; even a
lone water buffalo can cause some serious damage to a pride of lions,
and is thus judged to be too much trouble.  With wildebeest as common as
popcorn the buffalo's just not worth it.

> The buffalo is then faced with a dilemma: to
> try to outrun the lions, while exposing its vulnerable backside to
> them; or to stand still and confront them with its pointy end. Often
> this will result in a stalemate, with either the lions winning through
> force of numbers, or the rest of the herd coming to the buffalo's
> aid and driving the lions off.

Or the buffalo just looking really pissed and the lions figuring they
have better things to do with their lives than lose them in the here and
now.  There's a reason water buffalo are considered the most dangerous
animals in Africa, above leopards and lions and crocs and hippos and so
on . . .

>         Cape Buffalos are enormous creatures, yet they seem to be able
> to turn fairly quickly to put their horns to good use. Given that
> a triceratops, or most neoceratopsians for that matter, seem to have
> had more impressive (but more functional?) pointy bits than a
> buffalo I would expect they would also possess the ability to put
> them to effective use, both as a group and as an individual separated
> from the group.

I wouldn't say the horns of most neoceratopians were more effective or
mor impressive than those of a water buffalo; _Triceratops_ or
_Torosaurus_ might give them a run for their money, but wb horns are a
good foot or two in length.  Ceratopian horns just don't compete.

>         There is of course the possibility that those heads were mostly
> for show. Most species of oryx have such long horns that I doubt
> the pointy ends are of much use as a predator defence. The peacock also
> has a tail that, although useful in attracting a mate, is otherwise
> a hinderance when it comes to escaping predators. Yet these species
> have other means of escape (running and flying in these examples).

True.  The best example I can think of to compare a ceratopian to is a
rhino, maybe a goat.  The horns can be applied in some nasty ways if the
animal's distressed, but otherwise they have more mundane uses.

> Ceratopsians seem to have concentrated most of their armourment
> towards the front end of the beast, so those heads probably had
> a degree of defensive functionality as well, which would have required
> the ability to put them to efficient use. Unless it was all bluff.

I think this varied a lot from species to species; _Pachyrhinosaurus_
would make a bad bluffer, but _Styracosaurus_ would blow the house down
with minimal difficulty.