Diplodocids are a subgroup of sauropods, the gigantic herbivores known for their exceptionally long neck and tails. Unlike other sauropods, diplodocid tails were thick at the base but tapered off to a whip-like thin section at the end, leading to the suspicion about how the dinosaurs might have used their rear end.
Myhrvold eventually digitally simulated the tail of one species, Apatosaurus louisae, and published his paper on the subject with Canadian paleontologist Philip Currie in the journal of Paleobiology in 1997. In the paper, he argued that such tail would have been able to make a loud enough noise for defense, communication, intraspecific rivalry or even courtship. Kenneth Carpenter, the director and curator of paleontology at Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum was not convinced by the idea. He challenged Myhrvold to build a scale model to back up his argument.
Nearly two decades later, Myhrvold finally managed to build a 20kg (44 lb) model and presented it at the 75th annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology this year. Although it was impossible to build one with proper skin and flesh, the aluminium and stainless steel model simulated the dinosaur’s skeletal structure.