Flying dinosaurs ‘had more elaborate mating rituals than peacocks’

June 29th, 2010 - 4:52 pm ICT by ANI  

London, June 29 (ANI): Flying dinosaurs in the prehistoric era had more elaborate mating displays than modern-day peacocks, according to scientists.

In a new study on pterosaurs and pelycosaurs- the fin-backed ancestors of modern mammals- researchers have shown that their elaborate headcrests and sails were developed for the purpose of sexual selection.

Until now, it was believed that these appendages regulated body temperature or helped them steer while they were flying.

But now, researchers from the universities of Hull, Portsmouth and Western Australia, have found that prehistoric pterosaurs evolved elaborate headcrests to help them attract the best mates.

On the other hand, the pelycosaurs, a group of our own distant ancestors, developed fantastic sails along their backs to oust sexual competitors.

‘Pterosaurs put even more effort into attracting a mate than peacocks whose large feathers are considered the most elaborate development of sexual selection in the modern day,” the Telegraph quoted Dr Dave Martill, from the University of Portsmouth, as saying.

“Peacocks shed their fantastic plumage each year, so it’s only a burden some of the time, but pterosaurs had to carry their crest around all the time,” he added.

It was concluded that the elaborate crests and sails became so grand owing to sexual competition.

The study said that bigger crests and sails were more attractive to prospective mates so they became more exaggerated over successive generations.

In fact, some pterosaurs had crests five times bigger than their skulls.

The researchers found that in each case the size of the crests and the sails were too extreme to have a dedicated body temperature control function.

Dr Joseph Tomkins, from the University of Western Australia, said: ‘Our analysis suggests that male Pteranodon either competed with each other, in battles for dominance using their crests - in a similar way to animals with horns or antlers - or alternatively, that females assessed males on the size of their crests, in a similar way to peahens choosing among a group of displaying males.’

The study was published in The American Naturalist. (ANI)

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