Thunder Thighs Dino Had Four Wheel Drive

Sunday, June 5, 2011

“Hey Thunder-thighs!” yelled the predator Deinonychus to the Brontomerus.

But the six-ton Brontomerus didn't get hurt feelings, she just kicked the Deinonychus, a relative of the famous Velociraptor, halfway to Gondwana. Then she ambled away up a steep hill, where skinny-legged dinos didn't have the strength and stamina to follow.

The name Brontomerus literally means “thunder thighs” in Greek. Paleontologists think the newly discovered dinosaur may have used those massive leg muscles to deliver powerful kicks and climb rough terrain.

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"When we recognized the weird shape of the hip, we wondered what its significance might be, but we concluded that kicking was the most likely,” said Mike Taylor of University College London in a press release by the school.

“The kick would probably have been used when two males fought over a female, but given that the mechanics were all in place it would be bizarre if it wasn't also used in predator defense,” Taylor said.

Brontomerus probably had larger thigh muscles than any other sauropod, relative to it's size. That kind of power would allow Brontomerus to be the 4x4 of dinosaurs, climbing steep hills and rough terrain with ease.

“It's possible that Brontomerus mcintoshi was more athletic than most other sauropods,” said Matt Wedel of Western University of Heath Sciences in a University College London press release.

“It is well established that far from being swamp-bound hippo-like animals, sauropods preferred drier, upland areas; so perhaps Brontomerus lived in rough, hilly terrain and the powerful leg muscles were a sort of dinosaur four-wheel drive," Wedel said.

A team of scientists from the United States and United Kingdom, recently described Brontomerus mcintoshi in the journal Acta Paleontologica Polonica.

In the article they describe the skeletal features that make Brontomerus so unique. The ilium, or hip bone, is very large for a dino its size. The muscle attachments on the shoulder blades seem to indicate the sauropod had massive front legs too.

Brontomerus is an entirely new genus of dinosaur, and paleontologists were lucky to find it. Researchers from the Sam Noble Museum rescued the bones from a looted quarry in Eastern Utah. The find included the remains of two individuals, an adult and a juvenile, possibly a mother and child duo, the researchers speculated.

The adult would have tipped the scales at 6 tons and measuring 45 feet in length. That's about the bulk of a large elephant, with a neck and tail stretching out longer than any living python. The juvenile was about the weight of a pony, 440 pounds, and 15 feet long.

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