Adapted from My Beloved Brontosaurus: So how did the dinosaurs do it? Investigators have long sought skeletal characteristics that might distinguish one sex from the other in lieu of soft tissue.
In , paleontologists Andrew Lee and Sarah Werning reported that they had found medullary bone inside the limbs of the predatory dinosaur Allosaurus and an evolutionary cousin of Iguanodon called Tenontosaurus. Birds and reptiles are dinosaurs' closest living relatives, and because they all have a cloaca a single opening for urination, defecation, and reproduction most paleontologists believe that dinosaurs did the deed through such an orifice as well. Among the rare examples are million-year-old turtles that died while copulating and a pair of million-year-old sharks that might have been courting when they were rapidly buried. Alas, no such fossils exist: The real question here though is: Many immense sauropods were too big to be threatened by predators and so could afford to ditch the camouflage in favor of flashy hues. That being said, with more than 1, genera of dinosaurs estimated to have lived between million and 66 million years ago, there were probably numerous variations on this theme. If a male tried to throw his leg over the back of a crouching female, he would castrate himself on her sharp spikes. Other species would have used different positions, like backing up to each other. Painful-looking punctures on the skulls of large theropod dinosaurs such as Gorgosaurus, Sinraptor and others indicate these dinosaurs bit each other on the face during combat, according to Darren Tanke and Philip Curie. Hypotheses for exactly how this occurred depend on what feats of strength scientists think dinosaurs were physically capable of. Meanwhile studies of birds and crocodilians—the closest living relatives of dinosaurs—hint at what the external reproductive anatomy of dinosaurs looked like. Very carefully, say some researchers, who believe mounting a female from behind would have proved deadly for the males of dinosaurs like Stegosaurus. Teenagers will be teenagers, after all. Some two-foot-tall ducks, for example, have 7-inch penises , while foot-long crocodiles have mere 4-inch members. The majority view seems to be that large males like the Mamenchisaurus a foot-long behemoth featured in the new exhibition [at the American Museum of Natural History] probably mounted from behind, like modern giraffes and elephants. Such prominent structures could well have been used in mating displays, though. This armored dinosaur sported huge spikes on its lower back and hips that must have looked dangerous to males in the mood. All these primitive living birds possess a penis, with ducks having the most bizarre types — a regular sized Argentine lake Duck has a corkscrew-shaped organ with a brush on the tip that measures up to 42 cm long. Dinosaurs must have had sex to reproduce. My Beloved Brontosaurus is his second book. They have all kinds of theories as to how it went down, but unfortunately, there's no actual flesh to, well, flesh out the details. So where does all this leave the mystery of Stegosaurus mating? I asked my paleontologist friend Heinrich Mallison of the Museum of Natural History in Berlin to evaluate the possibility that Kentrosaurus mated in the leg-over-back position using computer models he had previously developed to study how flexible the animal was. Reconstructing the mating habits of dinosaurs requires more than just an understanding of their reproductive organs, however. Stegosaurus has become an icon of the mystery surrounding dinosaur sex.
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