Saturday, July 24, 2010

Is That A Thermoregulater, Or Are You Just Pleased To See Me?

While on the subject of what prehistoric beasts were actually like, here's some interesting recent research from the University of Western Australia looking at why those reptiles had such large crests and other features. Dr Joseph Tomkins, the lead author of the study, argues that such features were part of a sexual attraction strategy, rather than being used for thermoregulation. In terms of heat control, the features were either larger than necessary, or unnecessary.

Tomkins and his colleagues found that the relationship between body size and crest or sail size was very similar to what you'd expect from a sexual trait in a creature alive today, but even more so.

'We expected there to be a relationship, but we were really surprised at how exaggerated the structures of these fossil creatures were in comparison to existing animals.'

'In red deer, large males have large antlers. Also in stag beetles, bigger males have big mandibles. It's even the same in stalk-eyed flies: the stalks on the largest males are disproportionately large. But the head crest of pteranodon in particular outclassed these traits,' says Tomkins.

Presumably, this just goes to show that size does matter.

Tomkins, an expert in so-called sexual selection – how different traits have evolved to attract a mate – says, 'While I was doodling a sail-backed lizard, it suddenly struck me that the sail had to be sexually selected.'

EoR trusts that 'doodling' is not a euphemism in this context.

Prehistoric sexual preferences

1 comment:

  1. Tomkins call them "some of the earliest and most extreme examples of elaborate sexual signals in the evolution of terrestrial vertebrates,"

    It would be neat to add this to the extinction theories, but I don't believe it would stand up.


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