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I'm working on a creature that uses predominantly its clawed arms and sharp teeth to hunt down prey. The creature is bipedal, is around the size of a large lion and has similar strength, but greater speed (it's in transition to becoming a pursuit predator). Its habitat is predominantly composed of open plains with tall grass, but with more trees and richer soil than what we find in the Savannah (there are trees which are much larger and more developed, but they aren't important in this case). I'd like the creature to have a strong enough neck to allow for ripping flesh from its gazelle-sized prey, but since its eyes are fixed in the skull (it relies mostly on vision to hunt, and has large eyes), I'd like them to also have a neck rotation range of about 270 degrees in each direction (similar to an owls, as they too seem to have evolved it to compensate for their fixed eyes). I haven't decided on the length, but I planned the neck to be composed of 14 vertebrae.

Given this, can a creature have a neck capable of such rotation without overly compromising the overall strength of said neck? The best natural example of such rotation is owls, but their necks seem rather skinny, and their mandibles and beaks aren't usually used for hunting.

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  • $\begingroup$ Have you looked into giraffes? IIRC their necks aren't exactly weak. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Jun 20 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ FYI, I think all mammals only have 7 neck vertebrae. Giraffes' are just really long but still only 7. Dinosaurs (and birds) could vary and some sauropods had many, many more. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Jun 21 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew but they are not very flexible either. $\endgroup$ – John Jun 22 at 2:12
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You basically just described therapod dinosaurs. which come in a range of balance of claws and teeth to choose from. They come in a range of sizes and hunting styles. Here are three examples, Allosaurus, an oviraptor, and Deinonychus.

enter image description here

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Predatory birds and dinosaurs have/had strong flexible necks. 270 degrees is actually not that flexible, many mammals can pull off near 360 ranges of movement laterally, and about 180 vertically. some birds and dinosaurs birds can do even better.

Here is a great video on the range of movement of bird necks.

Mammals have this less often because mammals are missing a whole set of neck bones (cervical ribs), which add a lot of musculature to the neck of animals that have them. but there are plenty of mammals with strong flexible necks too, wolves come to mind.

There are extinct birds that hunt only with the head that can give some some ideas.

enter image description here

if you want a neck to be flexible it has to be skinny, thick necks evolve to limit the range of motion not increase it.

It would help if you were more clear with what you want, many bird have eyes which cannot move or move very little.

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  • $\begingroup$ I've edited the question to make it clearer, I would like for my creature to have the same rotation range as an owl (can swivel the head up to 270 degrees in each lateral direction). The issue is I couldn't find anything about the neck flexibility of animals like Titanins other than the terror bird classic head swing move to use the beak to stab into prey. $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex Jun 21 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ @ProjectApex owls are not rally doing anything special, they are doing the same thing the hawk in the video is doing when it looks right or left, it is just they have so much fluff from feathers it looks more impressive than it is. Owls have a little bit more range of motion in twisting but that is due to having blood vessels that can take the twisting without getting twisted shut, not anything to do with eh bone and muscle. I am curious as to what benefit you think this will give your animal, it only helps owls because they can perch upright and fly. $\endgroup$ – John Jun 21 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ well my animal, unlike its prey, can stand up to better look at its surroundings (its legs are powerful and relatively long), but it's incredible vision and large eyes come at the cost of fixed eyeballs, much like in eagles. Since they don't have the benefit of a branch to perch on, I'd like them to be able to scan its surroundings as much as possible without needing to twist its head the other direction (much like owls already use their swiveling to patrol their surroundings). $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex Jun 21 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ The amount of force observed in terror birds like Titanis seem more than enough for my predator, but I never got to find any sources exploring their neck flexibility other than dorsoventral articulation, so essentially I'm looking at whether one can have a neck strong as a terror bird while having it capable of at least 200 degrees from each direction. $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex Jun 21 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ they should be able to look over heir shoulder, that is not a particularly difficult feat, the limiting factor om most neck flexion is the esophagus and arteries, which don't undergo much stretching in horizontal flexion. $\endgroup$ – John Jun 22 at 2:08
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Just so you know: some breeds of dogs can turn their heads more than 180°. Just not the way you are thinking.

A dog looking backwards by bending its neck, heads stays topside down

The neck of a dog is very muscular and strong, being more akin to a human's waist than a human's neck

Canids and felines can also rotate their heads nearly 180° in a similar way.

A lion lioking back source: https://www.mikerae.com/young-lion-looking-back-from-tree-panthera-leo/

This allows them to turn their heads 360° already. Turn 180° one way, then another. Once you've done that there is little advantage in going much over.

This is more for their eyes than their ears, though. Canids and felines can usually rotate their ears in most directions and independently, and the former even count more on their hearing than their sight. This makes it less likely that a neck rotating more than 180° would be an advantage.

Predators such as these need strong necks to withstand being bitten in fights, and to withstand the forces they will expose themselves to when they are biting prey. A neck that could turn further would have to be thinner and more delicate.

Trust me, your predators are already good (and believable) with a dog or cat neck.

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What you need is a carnivorous horse. A horse's neck is quite flexible, able to bend nearly 180 degrees left or right - enough to scratch or bite itches on its belly. Do an image search on something like "horse looking backwards". It's also very strong.

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    $\begingroup$ Oh god, I can imagine what a man-eating horse would look like. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Jun 21 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen: I wasn't thinking man-eating, just carnivorous, in the way dogs can be carnivorous yet not eat their humans. But horses do bite, occasionally, and I suppose warhorses could be trained to bite the enemy. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 21 at 4:32
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking something carnivorous that big has to be capable of man-eating. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Jun 21 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen: Sure, they would be capable of eating humans. So are dogs, any other large predator, or even other humans. But they generally don't. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 21 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen one of Hercules's twelve jobs was cleaning stables that housed man-eating horses. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jul 1 at 15:13
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I think you mean the question to be "How"

I was drawing everything, but then stack exchange told me the images were to big, so whatever I will try to explain it with just words.

You need to remove some infra vertebral muscles, not because it would make the neck more flexible but because it would leave free space, and we need a lot of space.

A necessity will be to take all neck muscles and put them on the back, this gives you the ability to make them larger, suddenly the trapezius become larger than the latissimus dorsi. All the neck muscles will be connected to the spine the same way fingers are connected to the forearm.

I don't know much about flexibility, But I know that in some causes excessive flexibility comes from weakness in muscles and sometimes excessive stiffness comes from muscles which are too strong. From training the iron cross on rings I popped my elbow because my biceps were too weak and now elbows bend backwards, on the opposite many professional arm wrestlers can't physically extend and straighten their arms because the bicep is too strong.

Both situations can be avoided by making antagonistic muscles stronger. Muscles from all sides of the neck must be of similar strength.

The tendons will run on the spinal crest, costal facet and below the vertebral body. You need only a handful of muscles, but make them really strong. Adding too many muscles would not leave space for the arteries, and when that happens your creatures risk snapping their own necks just by turning because the muscles and excess tendons would damage blood vessels.

Also incredible long tendons naturally make for good levers, see how a single skinny man can lift a car with a few pulleys.

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  • $\begingroup$ birds which have very flexible necks actually have more neck muscles than mammals. arrangement and leverage matter more than number. bird vertebra tend to give neck muscles far better leverage by moving the leverage outward. $\endgroup$ – John Jun 21 at 14:02
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Why not tentacles?

Some species have been observed lifting as much as 40 times their own body weight. And larger species are famous for snapping the spines of sharks.

https://oceansyrup.com/octopus-arm-wrestling/

Or why not elephant proboshi?

An elephant's trunk has eight major muscles on either side and 150,000 muscle bundles in all. It is so strong that it can push down trees and lift a whopping 700,000 pounds.

https://www.treehugger.com/extraordinary-facts-about-elephant-trunks-4858665#:~:text=It%20has%20mighty%20muscles,lift%20a%20whopping%20700%2C000%20pounds.

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  • $\begingroup$ I feel like a completely boneless neck might be a problem, since the weight of the head will have to be completely sustained by muscle and the spinal cord at this region will be severely unprotected. $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex Jun 20 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ @ProjectApex a few bones save no one's neck. $\endgroup$ – user76601 Jun 20 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ but they do make it a lot harder to cut through. $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex Jun 20 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ what is a neck but a tentacle made of bone and muscle. $\endgroup$ – John Jun 21 at 4:06
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    $\begingroup$ @ProjectApex Huh. That's true. Closest thing is an elephant and its trunk. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Jun 21 at 17:08
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Ostrich

enter image description here

Those necks are hella bendy but how strong are they? It is hard to tell since when hunting hyaenas (its natural food source) the ostrich prefers to

(1) Kick the hyaenas apart with its powerful and beautiful leg muscles.

(2) Catch the hyaena by the tail and swallow it whole.

In particular it doesn't use the neck to pull things apart.

On the other hand I can chop up a raw lamb leg no problem using the bluntest steak-knife in my drawer, provided I saw back and forth. I'd think an ostrich neck has at least as much power as my wrist, so pulling chunks of flesh off is reasonable if the ostrich had teeth (ostriches are famously toothless) or a serrated beak.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your answer reminds me of a creepypasta about giraffes which dislocated their Jaws and swallowed adult lions like a snake. $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex Jun 21 at 15:21

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