Rare fossil allows scientists to understand pterodactyl sex

Illustration for article titled Rare fossil allows scientists to understand pterodactyl sex

A fossilized pterodactyl, found in China, has provided the first direct confirmation of the differences between male and female pterodactyls. The new fossil, a female, has been nicknamed Mrs. T.

Pterodactyls were flying reptiles which lived from 220 to 65 million years ago. Although they lived alongside dinosaurs, and some call them pterosaurs, they are not dinosaurs. But they were definitely as awesome as their mega-sized cohorts. The smallest of them had a wingspan of only 25 centimeters and lived in trees. The largest was the size of a giraffe, and had to pole vault itself off the ground using its own wings as poles. Scientists have unearthed many kinds of them around the world, giving insight into their habitat, diet and territory. But some very fundamental facts were still uncertain.

One of the most basic mysteries was finding out the sex of all pterodactyl fossils that have turned up over the years. Mrs. T, found in the Liaoning Province of China, was found fossilized with an egg. Scientists examining the fossil have said that the egg was so well developed that the pterodactyl would have been about to lay it when she was killed. The fossil had some female characteristics, like wide hips for developing and passing eggs. But she did not have one of the most well-known characteristics of pterodactyls: A crest. Many fossilized pterodactyl skulls have a long bony crest that arches back from the forehead over the back of its head and neck. Scientist believed that these crests were part of male mating displays, since other pterodactyl fossils lacked them completely, but without evidence they couldn't be sure.


Researchers are still not sure whether these crests were for fighting, or for pure impressive display, but they can be sure, now, that pterodactyls wore their sex on their faces.

Via Science Daily.

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Too bad that the photo is not better. I can not tell what is what in that one.