Best evidence yet that dinosaurs used feathers for courtship
A University of Alberta researcher's examination of fossilized dinosaur tail bones has led to a breakthrough finding: some feathered dinosaurs used tail plumage to attract mates, much like modern-day peacocks and turkeys. U of A Paleontology researcher Scott Persons followed a chain of fossil evidence that started with a peculiar fusing together of vertebrae at the tip of the tail of four different species of dinosaurs, some separated in time and evolution by 45 million years.
Persons says the final vertebrae in the tails of a group of dinosaurs called oviraptors were fused together forming a ridged, blade-like structure. "The structure is called a pygostyle" says Persons. "Among modern animals only birds have them."
Researchers say fossils of Similicaudiptery, an early oviraptor, reveals feathers radiating from the fused bones at the tail tip. Similicaudiptery was not known to be a flying dinosaur and Persons contends its tail feathers evolved as a means of waving its feathered tail fans.
No direct fossil evidence of feathers has been found with the fossils of the oviraptors that followed Similicaudiptery, but Persons says there is still strong evidence they had a feathered tail.
Persons reasons that because the later oviraptor had the same tail structure as the feathered Similicaudipteryx, the tails of later oviraptors' still served the same purpose, waving feathered tail fans.
Persons says the hypothesis of oviraptor tail waving is supported by both the bone and muscle structure of the tail.
Individual vertebrae at the base of an oviraptor's tail were short and numerous, indicating great flexibility. Based on dissections of modern reptile and bird tails, Persons reconstruction of the dinosaur's tail muscles revealed oviraptors had what it took to really shake their tail feathers.
Large muscles extended far down the tail and had a sufficient number of broad connection points to the vertebrae to propel oviraptor's tail feathers vigorously from side to side and up and down.
Oviraptors were two-legged dinosaurs that had already gone through major diversifications from the iconic, meat eating dinosaur family. Oviraptors were plant eaters that roamed parts of China, Mongolia, and Alberta during the Cretaceous period, the final age of the dinosaur.
"By this time a variety of dinosaurs used feathers for flight and insulation from the cold, "said Persons. "This shows that by the Late Cretaceous dinosaurs were doing everything with feathers that modern birds do now," said Persons.
In addition to feathered-tail waving, oviraptors also had prominent bone crests on their head, which Persons says the dinosaur also may have used in mating displays.
"Between the crested head and feathered-tail shaking, oviraptors had a propensity for visual exhibitionism," said Persons.
Source: University of Alberta
- Iridescent, feathered dinosaur offers fresh evidence that feathers evolved to attract matesThu, 8 Mar 2012, 15:34:49 EST
- Rare find: Feathered dinosaur feasts on flying foodWed, 29 Aug 2012, 18:08:49 EDT
- Newly discovered dinosaur implies greater prevalence of feathers Mon, 2 Jul 2012, 18:35:35 EDT
- Four-winged dinosaur's feathers were black with iridescent sheenThu, 8 Mar 2012, 15:34:21 EST
- For peacocks, the eyespots don't lieWed, 27 Apr 2011, 13:03:28 EDT
- Why dinosaurs shook their tail feathersfrom MSNBC: ScienceFri, 4 Jan 2013, 15:00:20 EST
- 'Elegant' dinosaurs may have shaken their tail feathersfrom CBC: Technology & ScienceFri, 4 Jan 2013, 13:00:32 EST
- Dinosaurs used feathers to woofrom Science BlogFri, 4 Jan 2013, 9:01:13 EST
- Best evidence yet that dinosaurs used feathers the way peacocks do, for courtshipfrom Science DailyFri, 4 Jan 2013, 9:01:04 EST
- Shake It! Dinosaurs Waggled Flashy Tails to Woo Matesfrom Live ScienceFri, 4 Jan 2013, 7:30:34 EST
- Best evidence yet that dinosaurs used feathers for courtshipfrom PhysorgFri, 4 Jan 2013, 0:00:34 EST
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- UC Davis engineers create on-wetting fabric drains sweat
- Not just blowing in the wind: Compressing air for renewable energy storage
- Amazon River exhales virtually all carbon taken up by rain forest
- 1 in 10 teens using 'study drugs,' but parents aren't paying attention
- Slow earthquakes: It's all in the rock mechanics
No popular news yet
No popular news yet
- Stem cell transplant restores memory, learning in mice
- 2 landmark studies report on success of using image-guided brachytherapy to treat cervical cancer
- Researchers discover mushrooms can provide as much vitamin D as supplements
- Cutting back on sleep harms blood vessel function and breathing control
- Study: Low-dose aspirin stymies proliferation of 2 breast cancer lines