Quirks & Quarks

Ankylosaurs' Tail Had a Wicked End

A Canadian paleontologist has followed the evolutionary development of the club-like tail of these intimidating armoured dinosaurs.

Tracking the evolution of these mace-tailed dinosaurs

Ziapelta, an ankylosaur with a fully developed tail club. (Artist: Sydney Mohr)
Ankylosaurs were plant-eating dinosaurs that first appeared over 145 million years ago, during the Jurassic, and lived right through to the end of the Cretaceous period, 66 million years ago. They were known for the protective spikes and plates all over their head and body.

A typical Ankylosaur had a long, flexible tail. But at some point in their evolution, that changed in the name of adding even more protection. A new study Dr. Victoria Arbour, a Canadian Post-doctoral researcher at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, found that the Ankylosaur tail became stiff, then evolved a large club-like structure on the end.

The club was likely used to to strike other Ankylosaurs, similar to the way animals with horns and antlers battle each other today.

Related Links

Paper in Journal Of Anatomy 
- University of Alberta release
Edmonton Journalstory
National Geographicblog