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Best evidence yet that dinosaurs used feathers for courtship
Date:1/3/2013

(Edmonton) A University of Alberta researcher's examination of fossilized dinosaur tail bones has led to a breakthrough finding: some feathered dinosaurs used tail plumage to attract mates, much like modern-day peacocks and turkeys.

U of A Paleontology researcher Scott Persons followed a chain of fossil evidence that started with a peculiar fusing together of vertebrae at the tip of the tail of four different species of dinosaurs, some separated in time and evolution by 45 million years.

Persons says the final vertebrae in the tails of a group of dinosaurs called oviraptors were fused together forming a ridged, blade-like structure. "The structure is called a pygostyle" says Persons. "Among modern animals only birds have them."

Researchers say fossils of Similicaudiptery, an early oviraptor, reveals feathers radiating from the fused bones at the tail tip. Similicaudiptery was not known to be a flying dinosaur and Persons contends its tail feathers evolved as a means of waving its feathered tail fans.

No direct fossil evidence of feathers has been found with the fossils of the oviraptors that followed Similicaudiptery, but Persons says there is still strong evidence they had a feathered tail.

Persons reasons that because the later oviraptor had the same tail structure as the feathered Similicaudipteryx, the tails of later oviraptors' still served the same purpose, waving feathered tail fans.

Persons says the hypothesis of oviraptor tail waving is supported by both the bone and muscle structure of the tail.

Individual vertebrae at the base of an oviraptor's tail were short and numerous, indicating great flexibility. Based on dissections of modern reptile and bird tails, Persons reconstruction of the dinosaur's tail muscles revealed oviraptors had what it took to really shake their tail feathers.

Large muscles extended far down the tail and had a sufficient number of broad connection points to the
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Contact: Brian Murphy
brian.murphy@ualberta.ca
780-492-6041
University of Alberta
Source:Eurekalert

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