Have a hot dinosaur news tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.orgScott Persons is all about tail: dinosaur tail. A doctoral student at the University of Alberta, Persons has presented some interesting research about dinosaur tails in the past few months, (in part with his adviser, Dr. Phil Currie).
In October his findings about Carnotaurus revealed that the "seven-metre-long eating machine had a huge tail muscle that... made it one of the fastest running hunters of its time."
Tail bone fossils reveal that a particular muscle known as the caudofemoralis was attached by a tendon to the upper leg bones. When Carnotaurus moved its tail, it flexed this muscle, and in turn pulled back on the legs. This gave them a much stronger, faster step than would otherwise have been possible, giving Carnotaurus unnaturally fearsome strides.
Just a few days ago Persons presented research about Oviraptor at the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology's annual meeting:
[O]viraptorids were experts at shaking their tail feather. The dinosaurs have unusually compact, flexible tails... Combined with a fan of feathers attached to the tail's end, this would have enabled Oviraptor to put on a show similar to that of a modern-day peacock... And just like modern-day birds, oviraptorids may well have flashed their tail fans to impress potential mates.
Unsurprisingly, Persons's research has had an impact on the paleo-illustration community, artists who translate research into visuals that are more easily understood by the general public. (And who have the most awesome job in the world.) Here's a post Persons did for a paleo-art blog back in February. Here and here are posts by illustrators discussing how Persons's and others' research has influenced their work.
Finally, this post by Persons nicely sums up some of his findings about dinosaur tails.