Tuesday, July 17, 2012

You can't do that!

An ostrich (Struthio camelus) doing something rather unlikely at Chessington World of Adventures.


I find ostriches rather unnerving, and I hope this photo goes some way toward explaining why - apart from being much bigger than the vast majority of birds one is used to, they have diminutive heads perched on the end of ridiculous, pipe-cleaner necks. This isn't actually the most absurd pose that this individual pulled while feeding on some plants just outside its enclosure - at one point the neck pointed straight up at the base, bent almost at a right angle to fit through the fence, then bent up at another (near) right angle, and back once more so that the head was in a more-or-less horizontal position.

Anyway, the point of all this is that Niroot (who was there! He was! And he took the photo!) commented that if ostriches were only known from fossils, and he drew one in that position, he'd be lambasted for drawing the animal in an anatomically impossible pose. And he's probably right!

Of course, freaky as they might be, ostriches are really very cool animals; as the largest extant dinosaurs, they make it easy to envisage their huge, long-lost distant relatives. A point that's often made, perhaps, but true. And if these (mostly) herbivorous theropods are a bit offputting, imagine coming up against one with a huge head full of teeth. Feathered nonavian dinosaurs: if they're not just a bit scary, you're doing it wrong.

10 comments:

  1. That's one rubber-necked bird you've got there. And I'm not going to lie -- ostriches terrify me a little bit. I used to volunteer at an animal shelter that had a rescue ostrich (yeah, I don't know either) out in the back. I had to clean out its water pail once and I'm pretty sure the entire time it was plotting different ways to dispatch me with those gigantic claws.

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  2. Just one more reason I think that in reality we understand squat about dinosaurs as they were

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  3. yay! I LOVE pics of animals doing things they "can't ever do". It goes such a long way for shooting a gazillion holes into the eternal no-can-do attitude most (older) people bring to dinosaur palaeontology!

    very many thanks for sharing!

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  4. Excellent point, Marc. I'm constantly surprised by what is inside extant critters, and how future paleontologists would get it wrong. Or underestimate them.

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    1. As I say in the text (ahem :P) it was Niroot's point really - I can't take the credit. I was far too busy being boggled to come out with any such pertinent remarks.

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    2. It's usually the other way round. That was a rare moment of perspicacity for me.

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  5. Great photo and excellent points one and all. I expect that the SV-POW! boys will let out a quiet squeal over this.

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  6. That's what happens when you're not restricted to seven neck vertebrae!

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  7. In your face 'accuracy maniacs'! Seriously, I don't have that much sympathy for those 'smart-asses' you usually read on message boards.

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  8. herons and egrets do some very wierd things with their necks... a "normal" great blue heron pose looks rather like the neck is broken...

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