While we are talking birds with odd beaks, skulls, ornaments and all that, it seemed most pertinent that I dig up this image of a cassowary from my collection. The crest at the top of the head is more properly called a casque and while studies show that it certain does have an ornamental / signaling function, it is used for a few other things as well including clearing foliage and detritus off the rainforest floor where the animals live.
To return then to yesterdays general theme, it is usually a bad idea to go looking for extra possible odd functions and features in fossil animals. If you have a good set of data that strongly supports a given function of a morphological feature – don’t try and then second guess yourself with a raft of extra odd (and untestable) features just because they crop up in one or two extant organisms.
Case in point being this one, I suppose it’s possible something like Monolophosaurus did use it’s crest in a similar way to a cassowary, but I wouldn’t want to argue that and nor is it common enough or tied to an obvious structural feature that you could realistically test it on the dinosaur.
However, when trying to work out the possible range of behaviours that an animal may have exhibited or when faced with something unusual, it can be well worth digging around (so to speak) in the literature on extant animals. There is such a raft of unusual things that living animals do and features they have that it would be impossible to consider them all when looking at a new fossil – to do so would be a waste of time and effort and a great many simply could not be assessed properly. They can provide a source of ideas and information that could easily be missed otherwise so as ever a balance must be struck, but stick to those that can reasonably be tested and avoid the extreme.
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