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Dinosaur defences

A group of Mamenchisaurus fend off an attack by a pack of Yangchuanosaurus. Mamenchisaurus's sheer size would have deterred most...Read More >>A group of Mamenchisaurus fend off an attack by a pack of Yangchuanosaurus. Mamenchisaurus's sheer size would have deterred most predators from attacking it. The giant sauropod could defend itself by rearing up on its hind legs before crashing down on its attackers. Its long, whip-like tail was also an effective weapon. Like modern herbivores, different dinosaurs had ways of defending themselves. These included: herding together, running away, camouflage and defensive armour, as well the active use of tails, teeth, claws, horns and spikes as weapons. For the giant sauropods, such as Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus, their sheer size would have deterred predators from attacking them, although young or sick individuals would have been vulnerable. Confronted by attackers, the sauropods would rear up on their hind legs before crashing down on them with their heavy forelimbs and clawed toes. They could also flick their whip-like tails with great force into the predators' bodies.


Tail spikes

Stegosaurus carried a lethal defensive weapon: four long spikes sticking out from its tail. A powerful flick into the head of an onrushing predator would have inflicted severe damage. The slow-moving Stegosaurus might have seemed a tempting target for a hungry Allosaurus. But the herbivore would quickly adopt a...Read More >>The slow-moving Stegosaurus might have seemed a tempting target for a hungry Allosaurus. But the herbivore would quickly adopt a defensive posture, turning its back on its attacker before thwacking its head with its powerful, spiked tail.
Stegosaurus' tail spikesStudies of Stegosaurus's bone structure show how the weapon, sometimes called a "thagomizer", could be used. Unlike many other dinosaurs, the tendons (straps of muscle) in its tail were made of cartilage, not bone. This meant that the tail remained flexible: it could be swished from side to side. Stegosaurus's powerful, short forelimbs allowed it to swivel round quickly and launch its attack.
Many fossil Stegosaurus tail spikes found show damage, suggesting they were used in combat. Palaeontologists have even found a punctured bone belonging to an Allosaurus into which a Stegosaurus tail spike fits snugly.

The horns and frill of a Triceratops would probably have not offered much defence against a hungry T. rex. Their more likely purpose was to impress females in courtship displays, or to be used in sparring contests between males.

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