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.

In this photo taken by my son Miguel, you can see two standing contenders about to start their descent, their laterally placed eyes fixed intently on each other as they prepare for the impact

In this other picture you can see the classic fight modality where one contender is distinctly above the other

This image shows the moment of impact, when even the hind legs stretch to liberate the immense energy of the blow

To see the whole process in action, check the second part of my Spanish ibex video here:

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Posted on 24/11/2017, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The Palaeogenetics of Cat Dispersal in the Ancient World: http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1038/s41559-017-0139

    This is on wildcats (Felis silvestris).

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