Prehistoric tale of the tail evolves at the Royal BC Museum

Victoria researcher links tail evolution of species separated by 300 million years

A Victoria researcher has helped to fill in the gaps in a dinosaur ‘tail’ as old as time.

Royal BC Museum paleontologist Victoria Arbour and Lindsay Zanno of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences set out to understand why two armoured species – separated by more than 300 million years of evolution – developed similar-looking weaponized tails.

Both Glyptodonts – a group of extinct armadillo-like mammals — and Ankylosaurs – large dinosaurs – have unusual clubbed “sledgehammer-like” tails, most likely used “as weapons of intra-specific combat or inter-specific defense.”

“That’s a really weird structure to evolve,” Arbour told Black Press Media. “It’s a really uncommon kind of weapon. So I was really interested in learning a bit more about why these two groups evolved such a similar structure.”

Ankylosaurs and glyptodonts both evolved similar armoured bodies with weaponized tails, but they were separated by over 300 million years.

RELATED: Researchers ponder why new dinosaur species had feathers but could not fly

Using statistical modeling and data about the two animals’ anatomy, the researchers found evidence for strong ‘convergent evolution’ – the process of unrelated groups of animals evolving similar looking body shapes. It usually means “similar selective pressures have shaped their bodies over time” according to Arbour.

Specifically, the two animals became large and herbivorous before evolving the rare tail weapons, and developed stiff tails before the tip was enlarged into a wrecking-ball-like structure.

“We showed that the way in which they evolved their tail club over time was actually really similar,” Arbour said. “We found that they were really strongly convergent, more than we expect [to happen] by chance.

The researchers speculate that ‘tail weapons’ are rare because of the stiff backbone needed to carry them.

“It seems like there’s just kind of a cascade of features that have to be in place for this thing to evolve,” said Arbour. “And understanding why that is, is still unresolved.

There are more questions than answers as we go into the future.”

RELATED: First B.C. dinosaur skull discovered near Tumbler Ridge



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Delacourt: For Trump, the coronavirus is about trade

President’s mask action and Canada’s response were most predictable

Nanaimo man, allegedly drunk and high, arrested after climbing 100-foot tree

Man in sandals climbs fir tree, hurls obscenities at police below

Timeline pushed back for Tofino-Ucluelet highway construction project

Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel said the ministry’s announcement came as “no surprise.”

Victoria Fire Department investigating explosion at supportive housing complex

The explosion blew out a window and caused damage to the frame of the building

Conservation: Two elk unlawfully shot in Northern Vancouver Island

‘The elk also did not have all of the edible portions of meat removed’

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

442 squadron to perform fly-by over Comox Valley hospital to salute COVID-19 workers

Cormorant helicopter will fly over the hospital at 7 p.m.

Escaped python found in Saanich building reunited with its owner

The little snake is at ‘home, safe and sound,’ CRD chief bylaw officer says

Police watchdog clears West Shore RCMP in altercation that led to man needing 82 staples

The man pretended he had a weapon he would use against the police

Victoria police seek public’s help finding man missing more than a week

Joel Diment 26 and has short brown hair and hazel eyes

Comox spring training cancelled for Snowbirds next month

The team announced that due to ongoing travel restrictions they will not be training in the Valley

Mid-Island Panago locations offer free pizza to first responders

First responder can get free pizza at Panago in Parksville, Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Duncan, and Mill Bay

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

Most Read