Thursday, January 20, 2011

Female Pterosaurs Were Crestless



Science Daily: How to Tell a Pterodactyl's Sex: Dino-Era Riddle Solved by New Fossil Find.

The discovery of a flying reptile fossilised together with an egg in Jurassic rocks (about 160 million years old) in China provides the first direct evidence for gender in these extinct fliers. This fossil shows that females were crestless, solving the long-standing problem of what some pterosaurs did with their spectacular head crests: showy displays by males.

The find was made by an international team of researchers from the Universities of Leicester, Lincoln and the Geological Institute, Beijing. Details of the unique new find are published in the journal Science.

David Unwin, a palaeobiologist in the Department of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, was part of the research team that studied the fossil. He said:

"Pterosaurs, flying reptiles, also known as pterodactyls, dominated the skies in the Mesozoic Era, the age of dinosaurs, 220-65 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. But, in the absence of any direct evidence for gender this idea remained speculative and crested and crestless forms were often separated into completely different species."

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