Dinosaurs are mysterious and fascinating creatures that have inhabited Earth long before we came. Nowadays the only evidence we have of their existence are the fossils of their giant bodies.
The fossils are helping archeologists to study and discover these intriguing animals .But some information is difficult to obtain from their bones only. For example have you ever wondered how do you make the difference between a female and male dinosaur? This can be quite impossible to respond to just from their skeletons.
A recent research has figured out at least one species, the Stegosaurus which is known to have lived in the Jurassic period. Researchers believe that the difference between a female and a male in this dinosaur is in the shape of the big plates on their back.
The Stegosaurus lived around 150 million years ago and was a four legged herbivore. This species had two sets of plates along its back but also four spikes at the bottom of its tail which was used to defend itself from predators. The largest of them all could reach lengths of up to 9 meters.
The largest fossils found by the scientists in this research had a length of up to 6.5 meters which were found in the Montana area and all of them belonged to the same species, the Stegosaurus.
Researchers came across bones belonging to different individuals with plates of two kinds: some had a taller shape and other a wider one. The wider plates were larger than the taller one which had a height of almost 90 cm.
Experts assumed that this represented the sexual dimorphisms, meaning the physical difference between the male and the female. For example in lions, the sexual dimorphisms is obvious in the mane present on the males.
Males are known to require more “decorations” on their bodies than females, meaning that the bigger plates most likely belonged to males, explained paleontology graduate student from University of Bristol, UK, Evan Saitta.
Paleontologists believe that the way the plates were positioned on their back and their structure, implied that they were used for mating and showing off in front of the female in order to attract their attention. This sexual ritual has been seen in many other present species of birds and mammals.
But this assumption had to be backed up by further analysis as the differences in plates could have been related to the age of the individuals and not to the sex difference. Scientists have performed scans and microscopic studies which proved that the bone tissue collected had stopped growing which meant that both types of plates belonged to adult individuals.
This research comes with plenty of intriguing information but in order to give a 100% rate of accuracy whether the plate’s size represent the sexual dimorphism, further studies are needed, explained paleontologist Andrew Farke who did not participate in the research. One of the biggest aims if paleontology is to make the distinction between a male and a female dinosaur and this study might have given a small clue on it, Farke added.
Image Source: Discovery News