The Great Ibex Showdown
The complex shape of the ibex horns has evolved over millions of years for a very particular fighting style. You can study the morphology of the horn sheaths, horn cores and skull and see how the whole structure is reinforced to withstand the brutal blows, but to fully understand the relationship between form and function you need to see the real animals fighting each other. In one modality of their ritualized choreography, one of the contenders raises on his hind legs and gets ready to fall on the defender, who in turn adjusts his position to receive the attacker. As the impact becomes imminent, each animal orients its head quite precisely so that the forces will be properly channeled. In other occasions, both contenders raise and the trajectories towards impact are more symmetrical.
With extinct animals we can only infer their fighting styles from the morphology of their skulls and head appendages, but with living animals there is no end to how much we can learn by observing directly their real behavior. Such observations help us anchor more solidly our hypothesis about the habits of completely extinct beasts.
To see the whole process in action, check the second part of my Spanish ibex video here: