Pterosaur males used their head crests to woo ladies

January 21st, 2011 - 5:50 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 21 (IANS) Men can’t help showing off when it comes to trying to impress the opposite sex. And male Pterosaurs, which are a favourite with Hollywood filmmakers, apparently used their spectacular giant head crests to woo their ladies, scientists believe.When compared to unadorned females, males sported impressive plumes of feathers, sometimes five times the size of their skull, which they used to show off to prospective mates, the journal Science reports.

It had previously proved impossible to say whether the remains of the reptiles, which lived alongside dinosaurs between 220 million and 65 million years ago, were male or female, and ’sexing’ them has foxed experts for over 100 years.

The evidence comes from ‘Mrs T’, the nickname given to a female pterosaur preserved together with the egg she was about to lay, according to the Daily Mail.

Pterosaurs were flying reptiles that lived alongside the dinosaurs, some of which grew as large as light aircraft.

‘Mrs T’ was a 160 million-year-old Darwinopterus pterosaur whose skeletal remains were uncovered in Liaoning province, north-east China.

Since she was found with her egg, scientists understood that she must have been female.

The pterosaur had relatively large hips to accommodate the passage of eggs, but no head crest.

Other Darwinopterus specimens, now known to be male, have smaller hips and well-developed crests. Scientists believe these were probably used to ward off rivals or attract mates.

David Unwin, from the University of Leicester, UK, said: “Pterosaurs, flying reptiles, also known as pterodactyls, dominated the skies in the Mesozoic Era, the age of dinosaurs, 220 million to 65 million years ago.

“Many pterosaurs have head crests. In the most spectacular cases, these can reach five times the height of the skull.

Scientists have long suspected that these crests were used for some kind of display or signalling and may have been confined to males, while females were crestless.

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