A Real Live Paleontologist Discusses the Biomechanics of Godzilla

Mark Witton is mostly known (to me) from his research into pterosaurs. In this blog post, he has some appreciative things to say about the new Godzilla movie:

For 2014, Godzilla is a fully digital and, as we all know, relatively faithful to the original designs. It has, however, been altered in ways which would be difficult to execute if we were still watching a man in a suit. A lot of these changes, as well as the design of Godzilla’s adversaries, were pretty neat because they tie into what we know about animal biology, scaling and functionality, and I get the impression that the guys behind this latest Godzilla – Legendary Pictures – put a lot of effort into making half-sensible creatures which biologists, biomechanicists and functional anatomists can be relatively happy with. And yes, yes yes: there’s a buttload of stuff which is clearly nonsense: there’s no way these animals could be the size they are, or firing beams of nuclear fire from their throats and so forth. But that’s just par for the course for a Godzilla movie, and I’m not going to jump on boring old bandwagon of highlighting how impossible the whole lot is. What’s far more interesting, and what I want to focus on here, is how Legendary built their animals around standard movie monster tenets to produce creatures which are not only intriguing and cool-looking, but also chime with real animal biology and functionality.

My favorite line:

If we’re willing to stretch belief a bit (I assume we are, what with a fictitious 100 m tall reptile being the subject of discussion here)…

Witton discusses the new Godzilla’s foot structure, gills (!), and proportionally smaller head and finds that each makes a certain amount of sense within the context of the movie. Then he really shines as he looks at the aerodynamics of the flying beasties Godzilla battles. It’s all quite fascinating if you enjoy a little bit of science with your enormous lizard beasts.