Friday phalanges: Megaraptor vs. Saurophaganax

April 19, 2013

Is that your flexor tubercle, Saurophaganax, or are you just hungry to see me?

Is that your flexor tubercle, Saurophaganax, or are you just hungry to see me?

Up top there is a commercially obtained cast sculpture of a thumb claw of Megaraptor. Down below is an unpainted urethane cast of one of my favorite inanimate objects in the universe: OMNH 780, a thumb claw of Saurophaganax. I dunno how much of the Megaraptor claw is real [none, it turns out, but it's based on a true story]; certainly the cast is faithful enough to record some tool-marks in the rugose part near the base. But I know how much of OMNH 780 is legit, and that is all of it. I would have put in a photo of the actual specimen but irritatingly I forgot to take any during my recent visit, and I didn’t have the Megaraptor claw back then anyway. Hopefully I’ll get back to the OMNH this summer, and then it is ON.

The kaiju-loving fanboys of CarnivoraForum undoubtedly want to know how these two compare. Well, much to my disappointment, the Megaraptor claw is a shade longer (28.7 cm max straight-line distance) than the Saurophaganax claw (26.3 cm). But the Saurophaganax claw is about twice as thick and way more robust, and the flexor tubercle which anchored the tendon that powered the claw’s movement is friggin’ immense. It’s like pitting an NBA forward against an NFL linebacker: one is a little taller, but the other one will pound you like a tent stake.

If anyone’s wondering, these claws are both waaay shorter than those of Therizinosaurus (half a meter and up), which still holds the longest-claws-of-anything-ever title. The problem for fans of excessive violence is that Therizinosaurus probably wasn’t doing terribly exciting things with its claws–grooming its feathers, making veggie kabobs, and scratching its ample behind, most likely.

Mmmmmm...suffering. OM NOM NOM NOM!!

Mmmmmm…suffering. OM NOM NOM NOM!!

The same was not true for Saurophaganax, which the unbelievers call Allosaurus maximus, a red-blooded all-American murder machine with a triple PhD in kicking your ass. When it wasn’t drinking camptosaur blood straight from the jugular, it was eating mud-mired diplodocids butt first while they were still alive. And what about those rumors that Saurophaganax was completely feathered in $100 bills, or that it was the direct linear ancestor of Charles Bronson and Steven McQueen? It’s probably too soon to say, since I just made them up, but I’ll bet your mind is blown nonetheless.

How dangerous was Saurophaganax? Let me put it this way: it’s still dangerous. Thanks to the high concentration of heavy elements in Morrison dinosaur bones, you’re supposed to air out the specimen cabinets before you start working so the radon can escape. Otherwise you might breathe in freakin’ radioactive gas and get cancer (in contrast to some “facts” in the previous paragraph, this is actually true). That’s right, Saurophaganax can kill you, just by lying around in a drawer. After 145 million years, it’s still reaping souls for Hades. By god, that’s giving them what for!

In short, the thumb claw of Saurophaganax is the most impressive instrument of dinosaurian destruction I’ve yet laid eyes on. If you want to see it in context, check out the mounted skeleton at the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman.

This idiot is going to die.

This idiot is going to die.

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20 Responses to “Friday phalanges: Megaraptor vs. Saurophaganax

  1. Andrea Cau Says:

    Awesomepost, bro!


  2. Someone likes Dr. Tran.

  3. Duane Says:

    I guess I lose sight of the fact of how big some of these theropod claws are when I usually see them compared to the whole massive skeleton. But they look like tools for gaffing elephants!!! Sometimes I wonder if a well placed lung puncture by these claws delivered the killing strike more often than the teeth did.


  4. I hate to be pedantic in such a fun post (eh who am I kidding, I love being pedantic), but that Megaraptor claw is a sculpture, not a cast of a particular specimen. The “tool marks” are natural striations that are found in some specimens (holotype, UNPSJB-PV 944, 958). While the flexor tubercle is lower, the sharper ventral edge might compensate by requiring less power to slash through flesh.

    How long is the Saurophaganax ungual along the dorsal curve btw? Megaraptor’s manual ungual I is estimated at 37 (holotype, UNPSJB-PV 958) to 43 (MUCPv 341) cm long.

  5. Matt Wedel Says:

    Thanks all for the kind words and clarifications. I think in this case, the scare quotes belong around “natural striations”, not tool marks, because the tool marks on this sculpture have little indentations from the toothed metal wheel that was used to inscribe them! (I’m not questioning that these striations are genuinely present in the actual claws, just stating that I know how they were formed in the sculpture.)

    How is the dorsal curve meaurement usually taken, to the end of the area that would have been covered with keratin, or to the utmost extremity? For the Saurophaganax ungual, the former measurement is 33 cm and the latter is 36. So still consistently shorter than Megaraptor claws–evidently this sculpture is pretty accurate, size-wise.

  6. accpaleo Says:

    yeah, Megaraptor’s looks like a bony version of Predator’s claws. But Saurophaganax’s looks like a frickin’ meat hook!


  7. As I recall, when ungual measurements are taken, an “around the curve” measurement is the absolute length from ungual tip to farthest tip of the extensor crest. It is only “claw length” that uses the position of the proximal end of the talon sheath (or its visible extend on the fleshed foot) when measuring around the curve, and this is generally due to intact specimens being used RATHER than skeletal when measuring foot proportions, etc.

  8. Hunter Says:

    Allosaurus FTW. TCPOW

  9. Dean Says:

    I shudder at the likely size of a big Spinosaurus claw. If it’s anything like Baryonyx it must be huge!

  10. brian engh Says:

    and remember kids, the keratin sheathes extended the killing structure even further…

    Here is a fossil eagle talon from a haasts eagle (giant extinct eagle from new zealand):

    and here is the living weapon system on the comparatively diminutive bald eagle:

    Also, i think it’s worth noting that eagles (and a few other groups of birds that use their feet for killing) display an enlarged/more robust inner toe claw just like dromeosaurids, and like the thumb claw of many theropods. For some reason that inner mega claw design just seems to work…

    maybe allosaur murder hugs were a frequently used technique for snatching up and dispatching smaller prey?

  11. Hikaru Amano Says:

    sugoi desu…but I wonder how Saurophaganax (or Allosaurus) maximus will fare if it faced-off with a giant ceratopid such as Triceratops horridus, T. prorsus, Eoticeratops xerinsularis, or Torosaurus latus? (I know it’s anachronistic, but for simple curiosity’s sake, let’s think what may happen Saurophaganax/Allosaurus encountered any one of those 4)


  12. oh yeah, time to finally collect all that data I know is floating around out there on ungual-to-claw-to-soft-tissue ratios and get that “murder claw look” out of the system for good.


  13. [...] Who had the more terrifying claws, Megaraptor or Saurophaganax? You decide. [...]


  14. [...] awesome thumb claw of Jurassic megapredator Saurophaganax maximus, which I blogged about here. (If you’re curious, I’m using it to amaze people at public talks, so it is serving a [...]


  15. […] baby apatosaur in the “Clash of the Titans” exhibit (more photos of that exhibit in this post). How much of this is real (i.e., cast from real bones, rather than sculpted)? Most of the […]

  16. Steve Hoeger Says:

    Hi , the Megaraptor claw is completely sculpted , It was sculpted by Maria Gravino from Argentina while she was working at a company in California that I was working at during the same time , She came up to help us complete the Giganotosaurus for its debut , we both sculpted for this company in the late 90’s.

  17. Matt Wedel Says:

    Hi Steve, many thanks for the backstory on the Megaraptor claw. Do you happen to know what Maria used for reference while she was sculpting the claw — photos, scaled drawings, casts, etc?

  18. Steve Hoeger Says:

    Both Photos and drawings , She was working With R. Corio in Argentina at the time so she had access to many real elements , I was busy on my own stuff so i was not watching too closely . she is on facebook and I am sure would be happy to tell you panzerwerk(at)hotmail.com if you want a link to her page .


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