How fast might the big dinosaurs have been

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When I finally arrived at Harvard in 1972, I was still interested in the gait of dinosaurs. All the anatomical footprint evidence vindicated Marsh’s light-footed and lively postural restorations of the 1890s. (dinosaur factory)The forelimbs of dinosaurs were aligned quite perfectly to match with the stride of the hind limbs. I now asked myself, “How fast might the big dinosaurs have been?” Most twentieth-century paleontologists had been willing to concede lively locomotion to the small, long-legged ostrich dinosaurs and to the smaller predators, but the big two-ton-plus species were always reconstructed as slow shufflers. But large mammals can gallop. (life size dinosaur)While in South Africa I observed threeton white rhino bulls at a full gallop with all four huge feet off the ground simultaneously in mid-stride. In fact, rhinos can accelerate and turn faster than horses, though in the stretch a horse can outdistance the short-winded rhinos. Perhaps big quadrupedal dinosaurs could also quick-start off into their own clomping high-speed charge.


A useful piece of evidence about the speed of dinosaurs can be extracted from the angles in their joints. Seen from the side, a running rhino always exhibits greater flexure at the elbow, knee, hip, and shoulder than does an elephant. (big size dinosaur for sale)Elephants run straight-legged, thigh lined up with shank and upper arm with lower arm, so their legs look rather like mobile Doric columns. Rhinos run with a more bent-legged stride and are consequently faster than elephants-top speeds are thirty-five miles per hour for the rhino, twenty-two for the elephant.


The rhino owes its greater velocity precisely to the bounce it gets from the stretching tendons at its joints each time its feet plant down. Flexing joints provide more of this bounce, and all the big mammals that gallop are so jointed. (life like dinosaur)Elephants can never get all their feet off the ground simultaneously, even at top speed, and their fastest gait can best be labeled a running walk. If we could compare the angles in dinosaur joints to those in these living mammals, we would have an important clue to the bounciness of their gait and hence their speed.