First demonstration of sexual selection in dinosaurs identified
Large ornamental structures in dinosaurs, such as horns and head crests are likely to have been used in sexual displays and to assert social dominance, according to a new analysis of Protoceratops carried out by scientists at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). This is the first time scientists have linked the function of anatomy to sexual selection in dinosaurs.
|Life restoration of adult Protoceratops andrewsi in the foreground engaging |
in speculative display postures. Non-mature animals can be seen
in the background [Credit: Rebecca Gelernter/QMUL]
This suggests the frill might have been used to attract suitable mates by showing off their best attributes or helping them assert the most dominant position in social interactions.
The researchers assessed the change in length and width of the frill over four life stages: hatchling babies, young animals, near-adults, and adults. Not only did the frill change in size but it also changed in shape, becoming proportionally wider as the dinosaur became older.
The research formed part of current postgraduate student and QMUL graduate Dylan Wood's undergraduate thesis, which looked at sexual selection in extinct species.
|Protoceratops is a member of the ceratopisian group of beaked herbivorous dinosaurs, which includes the familiar and |
much larger three-horned Triceratops[Credit: Kevin Schafer/Corbis]
Source: Queen Mary, University of London [January 13, 2016]