Quirks and Quarks

Dinosaurs might have danced for mates

130 million year old scrapes in Colorado sandstone preserve signs of display behaviour from giant ancient carnivores

Tracks preserve signs of birdlike mating displays

Two theropod dinosaurs face each other with mouths open
Artist's impression of Cretaceous therapod dinosaurs doing mating displays (Xing Lida)
Distinctive trackmarks found in 130-million-year-old sandstone in Colorado might have been made by huge predatory dinosaurs, performing mating or dominance displays.

Dr. Lisa Buckley, a curator at the Peace River Paleontology Research Centre in Tumbler Ridge, BC, and her colleagues, have been investigating a series of scraped hollows found at several sites, which show distinctive signs of having been made by the large, taloned feet of a multi-tonne bipedal dinosaur.

After considering several options, the team concluded that the tracks were most similar to much smaller ones made by modern birds, doing mating displays that involve repeated scraping at the ground, and throwing large amounts of dirt backwards into the air. Dr. Buckley suggests this is just one of an increasing number of indications that dinosaur and bird behaviour might have been quite similar.

Related Links

- Paper in Nature Scientific Reports
- University of Colorado, Denver release
Discovery News story
- LA Times story