Today, Victoria Arbour published a paper in PLoS ONE on ankylosaur tail club function, resulting from her M.Sc. thesis work at University of Alberta. As a quick reminder, ankylosaurs are those tank-like herbivorous dinosaurs, famous for having a big old lump of bone at the end of the tail (see picture at end of this post). Ms. Arbour estimated the impact force resulting from the tail clubs of several different ankylosaur specimens (belonging to the genera Euoplocephalus and Dyoplosaurus). The conclusion is that the largest ankylosars, but not smaller ones, could have generated enough force to crack the bones of an unlucky opponent. In other words. . .if the clubs weren't functional as weapons until adulthood, were the structures used for intraspecific combat, rather than defense against tyrannosaurs or other predators? There are clearly some great research projects in store along this line of inquiry! The paper is nice and detailed, with lots of math, figures, measurements, and other goodies clearly laid out for those who are so inclined.
So, go check out this new piece of dinosaur science! Because the work is published at the on-line, open access journal PLoS ONE, it is freely available. Furthermore, you can post comments on the paper at the journal site, rate the paper, and a whole host of other fun stuff. Do take advantage of these functions - it's a great way to contribute to the scientific process in a productive fashion.
This paper holds a special place in my heart, as the first manuscript that I took on after joining the PLoS ONE board of academic editors (this bit of information is identified on the up-front on the PLoS ONE website; not every journal has this level of editorial transparency!). Look for some more cool paleo papers in the very near future!
Arbour, V. M. 2009. Estimating impact forces of tail club strikes by ankylosaurid dinosaurs. PLoS ONE 4(8): e6738. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006738. Freely available here.
Life restoration of Euoplocephalus, as reconstructed by Arthur Weasley. Note the tail club, in particular. Licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution Unported license.