Dinosaur feathers may have attracted mates

Jan. 4, 2013 at 6:53 PM

EDMONTON, Alberta, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Fossils suggest some feathered varieties of dinosaurs used tail plumage to attract mates, much like modern-day peacocks and turkeys, a Canadian researcher says.

University of Alberta paleontologist Scott Persons says the evidence is for the proposition is 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.

The fused bones formed ridged, blade-like structure.

"The structure is called a pygostyle," Persons said in a university release Friday. "Among modern animals only birds have them."

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

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

Oviraptors were plant eaters inhabiting parts of China, Mongolia and Alberta, Canada, during the Cretaceous period, the final age of the dinosaur.

"By this time a variety of dinosaurs used feathers for flight and insulation from the cold," Persons says. "This shows that by the Late Cretaceous dinosaurs were doing everything with feathers that modern birds do now."

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