|The corpus delicti: an injured tail.|
There are several possibilities how this individual might have lost its tail. One is trampling, that a cogeneric simply stepped on the tail, causing an injury that got infected and finally led to the end of the tail falling off. However, given the type of injury and reactive bone growth, this seems rather unlikely. So, the second possibility is that the injured tail is evidence of an unsuccessful attack by a predatory animal, most probably a predatory dinosaur. This is the scenario that we considered more likely, and it has some interesting implications. First of all it indicates that Early Jurassic predatory dinosaurs were active predators, and not merely scavengers, and that they did target large animals and not only small prey. This is somewhat surprising, given that the largest known predatory dinosaurs from the Elliot Formation are about the same size as the Massospondylus specimen attacked, and they were rather gracile animals. On the other hand, the fact that the attack was unsuccessful indicates that Massospondylus had means to survive an attack by a predatory dinosaur, even after having received a serious wound, such as loosing a third of its tail. Maybe the animal got away, despite the injury, or maybe these basal sauropodomorphs lived in groups and helped each other when attacked. As you can see, such a specimen can lead to interesting thoughts. However, one should keep in mind that the actual FACT that we have is an injured tail - everything else becomes more and more speculative.
|The world as seen by science: looking for the next pieces.|