MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: dinosaur running speed estimates

Date: Thu May 20 04:59:51 1999
Posted By: Trevor Cotton, Grad student, Palaeobiology Research Group, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 919303776.Zo


there are alot of scientific papers and textbooks covering limb bone ratios 
in animals. A good basic book is Milton Hildebrand's "Analysis of 
Vertebrate Structure", published by John Wiley and Sons. 

This method of looking at limb bones is a very reliable method for getting 
a rough idea of how fast an animal could run. Look at the hind limbs of 
dogs and bears. These animals are closely related, but dogs live (or lived) 
in open habitats and would run down their prey. Bears live in forests and 
mountainous areas and do not run (but can sprint briefly faster than a 
man). Dogs have short femurs and long tibias and metatarsals. They also 
have long narrow feet and very flexible backs to let them run quickly. 
Bears are heavy, stiff-backed, broad-footed, and the upper and lower leg 
bones are almost equal in length. Dogs also walk on the tips of their toes, 
bears walk with their heels flat on the ground. All good runners (horses, 
ostriches, cheetahs) walk on their toes. 

You can't just use one feature to study how an animal ran. As well as the 
limb bone ratios you have to know how strong bones are. A very good, easy 
to read summary of this can be found in a Scientific American article 
written by the world expert on these matters - McNeil Alexander. The title 
of this article is "How dinosaurs ran", and can be found in the April 1991 
issue of Scientific American.

Donald Henderson instead of Trevor Cotton

Current Queue | Current Queue for Zoology | Zoology archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Zoology.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-1999. All rights reserved.