Multibody analysis and soft tissue strength refute supersonic dinosaur tail

Conti, S., Tschopp E., Mateus O., Zanoni A., Masarati P., & Sala G. (2022).  Multibody analysis and soft tissue strength refute supersonic dinosaur tail. 12(1), 19245., 2022


Sauropod dinosaurs are well known for their massive sizes and long necks and tails. Among sauropods, flagellicaudatan dinosaurs are characterized by extreme tail elongation, which has led to hypotheses regarding tail function, often compared to a whip. Here, we analyse the dynamics of motion of a 3D model of an apatosaurine flagellicaudatan tail using multibody simulation and quantify the stress-bearing capabilities of the associated soft tissues. Such an elongated and slender structure would allow achieving tip velocities in the order of 30 m/s, or 100 km/h, far slower than the speed of sound, due to the combined effect of friction of the musculature and articulations, as well as aerodynamic drag. The material properties of the skin, tendons, and ligaments also support such evidence, proving that in life, the tail would not have withstood the stresses imposed by travelling at the speed of sound, irrespective of the conjectural ‘popper’, a hypothetical soft tissue structure analogue to the terminal portion of a bullwhip able to surpass the speed of sound.



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