Ancient meat-eating dinosaurs held their arms with palms facing inwards like their bird descendants, a rare set of 198-million-year-old fossilised handprints has revealed. An analysis of the prints, published this week in PLoS One, supports theories that even very early therapods [lit. ‘beast feet’] such as tyrannosaurs and velociraptors had bird-like forelimbs, and walked only on two legs, well before they evolved feathery wings.
The handprints came from a dinosaur that sat down on the edge of a lake in St George, Utah, and extended its arms far enough to leave sediment marks. Six other resting dinosaur traces have been reported before, but they all lack clear hand prints.
This means, reports the Chicago Tribune, that we must banish images of tyrannosaurs holding their forearms like monkeys, with palms facing downwards – a posture that palaeontologists apparently term the “bunny position” – as depicted in Jurassic Park. Instead, we must imagine that dinosaurs were extremely good at holding basketballs.
“What this seems to imply is that, even from fairly early in their history, dinosaurs were entirely bipedal and weren’t using their forearms to support themselves in any way,” paleontologist Tom Holtz of the University of Maryland, says. “Because of that, the hands could specialize as weapons, to grab on to a struggling animal or to fight with other dinosaurs.”
Image: Dilophosaurus wetherilli in bird-like resting pose/Heather Kyoht Luterman
free access article on PlosOne
Bird-Like Anatomy, Posture, and Behavior Revealed by an Early Jurassic Theropod Dinosaur Resting Trace