STL Science Center

STL Science Center

17 December 2014

What About Your Tail?

I noticed that there was a pretty fantastic piece of art out there but it has no illustrator credit and no dollar amount attached to it. Therefore, I present it to you today as a link to the bureau that apparently manages its release. I do not think that breaks any kind of copyright rules, so it should be okay. The image does not really address what I wanted to address today, but it is pretty fantastic looking. The thing I really wanted to look at today is the tail of Cimolestes. Most small rodents (e.g. anything smaller than Capybara and Beaver) we think of either have wiry little tails and use them as balancing tools or big bushy tails that can be used as balancing tools or to help provide warmth. Cimolestes is usually depicted with the wiry looking tail that we see in mice, rats, and shrews. It stands to reason, and considering the environment at the time, that there was not much need for Cimolestes to have a bushy tail for warming itself if this wiry tail counterbalance is correct. Balancing as it scrambled up and down the tree was probably the limit of what Cimolestes needed its tail for anyway considering that it used all four limbs to scramble around the tree. Any small help in balancing while running was a benefit for an animal scrambling away from dinosaur that could swallow it whole if it tripped or otherwise lost its balance when it was running away. Long tails in extant mammals sometimes serve the exact same purpose. Think about how well adapted Cimolestes was the next time you see a rat, mouse, or even a cat running along a fence top!

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