Feeds

Boffins sex pterodactyls at last

'Mrs T' gives up secrets of ambiguous sky lizards

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Bone-furtling boffins say they have cracked one of the most difficult tasks known among dinosaur aficionados - namely, that of sexing pterodactyls.

Sex related features of Darwinopterus. The male (right) has a large head crest, but this is absent in the female (left). Picture credit: Mark Witton

Have you got a canoe on your head or are you just pleased to see me?

According to a statement issued yesterday by Leicester uni:

The discovery of an ancient fossil, nicknamed "Mrs T", has allowed scientists for the first time to sex pterodactyls – flying reptiles that lived alongside dinosaurs between 220-65 million years ago.

The university adds, somewhat gratuitously:

Pterodactyls featured prominently in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park III and are a classic feature of many dinosaur movies.

Until lately even the most knowledgeable paleontologists, finding a fossilised pterodactyl, would be unsure what sex the creature had been - rather like a modern anthropologist encountering a member of certain present-day urban subcultures, or someone meeting a dwarf in Terry Pratchett's Discworld stories.

No more: now an international team of scientists has discovered a fossilised lady pterodactyl bearing an almost fully developed egg, allowing the creatures' sex-based features to be positively nailed down.

"Many pterosaurs have head crests," explains paleobiologist David Unwin. "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...

“The fossil we have discovered, an individual of Darwinopterus, is preserved together with an egg showing that it must be female. This type of discovery, in which gender can be determined with certainty, is extremely rare in the fossil record, and the first to be reported for pterosaurs.”

The Darwinopterus fossil confirms that crested pterodactlys are male and that the females of the species were crestless. According to the bone-boffins the moniker "Mrs T" is "a contraction of Mrs Pterodactyl" [shurely "Mrs Pt, but the P is silent"?].

Mrs T was discovered amid Jurassic rock formations located in Liaoning Province, northeast China. Unwin and his colleagues theorise that she was killed in a tragic prehistoric mishap - perhaps a volcanic eruption - just before laying her well-developed egg.

Apart from crestlessness, according to the investigating boffins, another distinctive feature of the lady pterodactyl is wider hips to permit easier passage of eggs. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.