How the ankylosaurus dino got its mighty, Thor-like hammer-tail
Artist’s rendering by Sydney Mohr
Every kid or kid at heart loves learning about dinosaurs because they are basically weaponized animals. It’s as if Mother Nature were a 5-year-old kid who thought it would be cool to attach medieval weaponry to lizards and birds.
A study published Monday in the Journal of Anatomy shows how the ankylosaurus, a genus of dinosaur best known for having an armored back and clublike tail, became such a battle-ready beast.
Researchers from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences based their conclusions on some new fossils first discovered by farmers in China in 2014. These fossils came from an ankylosaur that lived during the mid-Cretaceous period called Chuanqilong chaoyangensis, the Chinese words for “legendary dragon.”
Researchers compared the new fossils with those from earlier types of ankylosaur such as the liaoningosaurus, the gobisaurus and the pinacosaurus, the first ankylosaur with a clubbed tail. This led researchers to the conclusion that the club didn’t start evolving until the tail could develop more “handle like” vertebrae to support it, according to the study’s abstract.
“In order for an ankylosaur to be able to support the weight of a knob and swing it effectively, the tail needs to be stiff, like an ax handle,” Victoria Arbour, a postdoctoral researcher in biological sciences for NC State who co-authored the study, explained in a statement. “For that to occur, the vertebrae along the tail had to become less flexible, otherwise the momentum generated by the knob’s weight could tear muscle or dislocate vertebrae.”
Fans of the movie “Jurassic World” may recognize the ankylosaurus as the type of dinosaur that Gray and Zach are observing in their Gyrosphere right before they meet the Indominous rex. Paleontologist Paul Barrett, president of the Palaeontolographical Society and a merit researcher at London’s Natural History Museum, describes the ankylosaurus’ tail in his review of the movie’s dinosaurs for Wired Magazine as a weapon that “could be swung at a fast speed, and could impact at a strong enough force to shatter bone.”
Am I the only person right now who really wants to see a fully evolved ankylosaur fight Ronda Rousey in a UFC match?