Roly-Poly Dinosaurs

Here’s a fun one: a roly-poly armored dinosaur. As far as I know, no one has ever published a picture of this creature in its rolled-up pose—until now. If you don’t believe me, google “ankylosaur images” and see if you can find one like it. If you do, I’d be glad to hear about it.

I was researching ankylosaurs for my latest science fiction short story (more about that below) and the deeper I dug into the scientific literature, the more I realized the world’s paleontological experts had missed this concept entirely. In over a century of portraying ankylosaurs, no one has ever published an image of the animals rolled up like this. Yet I am convinced this trick came naturally to them, curling up for defense against Tyrannosaurus rex and other king-sized threats.

Modern day armored creatures do it. Armadillos, hedgehogs, pangolins, and even lowly pill bugs do it when threatened by predators. So why not the ultimate in armored creatures, the ankylosaurs?

The maneuver has an interesting name: volvation. It’s based on the Latin word volvere, to roll, and the concept that the animal rolls itself up into a ball. Some, like pill bugs or the Brazilian three-banded armadillo can roll up so tightly they offer nothing to predators except solid armored surfaces. I wondered if ankylosaurs could do the same, so I made these sketches to attempt to understand the possibilities.

As you can see, I found a way to arrange all the component parts of an ankylosaur into a pretty solid structure, especially in this second sketch, where the animal is locked down so tightly there are only armored surfaces to be seen. Click on the images for a closer look.

At this point I was pretty-well convinced ankylosaurs could carry off this maneuver if it was needed. But I wanted to dig deeper. I borrowed a skeletal diagram from a scientific publication and rearranged the bones from their normal walking pose to the rolled up one below. And everything fit.

So then, how was I to get word out about my idea?

I chose to gather all these images into one publication and offer a bonus to go with them: a short science fiction story I call “The Ankylosaur Adventure,” with a roly-poly ankylosaur starring on the cover along with some unfortunate humans. I followed the story with a discussion of the science that guided my creation of the artwork shown here. Finally, I added a bibliography of research articles that gave me insights into these intriguing creatures and their neat defensive trick—volvation!

P.S. The images are necessarily compressed in Kindle, Apple, and other ebook formats, lowering their resolution. They’re good at that size, but for higher quality images, I suggest the Smashwords pdf version, or contact me for even higher resolution images. I might even be compelled to present a guest blog or a live video conference on the subject.

P.P.S. A heads up on a separate subject: I plan to release another of my Northwest Tales novels in April. It features an Ice Age megaflood in Washington State, among the largest natural disasters the earth has ever seen! Stay tuned for more info.

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes medical thrillers, natural disaster novels, and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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