Archaeology

Researchers Suggest Dinos may have also Sported Feathers for Show



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A new study suggests that one breed of dinosaurs used feathers to attract members of the opposite sex. The scientists participating in the research analyzed 75-million-year-old fossils of oviraptors, two-legged dinosaurs that had feathers.

The fossils were originally discovered in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Scientists from the University of Alberta can concluded that feathers played a role in the mating customs of this species of dinosaur.

When the paleontologists working on the project were examining the remains, they found that there were many points in the vertebrae where the dinosaur could flex its muscles. Using technology enhancement in their research, the scientists examining the specimens believe the muscles were large.

"Their tails were not only very, very flexible, but quite muscular," researcher Scott Persons, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Alberta in Canada said. "They could not only move them sinuously to strike a pose, but also hold it to do a muscular dance with the tail."

Researchers noted modern birds use these muscles to help propel them into flight, however it is believed that oviraptors were not flying animals. Thus, researchers concluded the other reason feathers are typically used by birds, such as turkeys and peacocks, are for courting/mating intentions. So why not dinosaurs?

“By this time, a variety of dinosaurs used feathers for flight and insulation from the cold,” said Persons, in a University of Alberta press release. “This shows that by the late Cretaceous, dinosaurs were doing everything with feathers that modern birds do now,” said Persons.

The researchers also found the oviraptor had prominent bone crests on the head, which is speculated to have also been used in mating rituals. Oviraptors of this type were also noted to have lived in the final age of the dinosaurs.

According to MSNBC (via Live Science), scientists believe this group of feathered dinosaurs, while related to other prominent meat-eaters, had also "gone vegetarian".

"There are good reasons to think they had gone vegetarian," researcher Scott Persons, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Alberta in Canada, Persons told LiveScience. "They were odd ducks, strange dinosaurs."

The Live Science piece also noted that earlier research suggested that dinosaurs evolved feathers for show and that several species of oviraptors, separated by tens of millions of years, had the muscle and bone structures that would be consistent with feathers.

The full study was published last week by Persons, along with colleagues Philip Currie and Mark Norell, in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

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