Dinosaur 'Romeo and Juliet' Found Buried Together
A dinosaur couple that appears to have died together after wooing each other has been identified in remains unearthed at the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.
The dino couple, named Romeo and Juliet since they are reminiscent of Shakespeare's famous doomed lovers, were entombed together for over 75 million years, according to a new study in the journal Scientific Reports.
Key to the research was figuring out the sex of the dinosaurs.
"Determining a dinosaur's gender is really hard," lead author Scott Persons said in a press release. "Because soft anatomy seldom fossilizes, a dinosaur fossil usually provides no direct evidence of whether it was a male or a female."
Persons, a paleontologist at the University of Alberta, and his team compared the remains of the bird-like dinosaurs, which were oviraptors (avian-resembling two-legged predators), with the anatomy of modern birds.
The researchers found evidence that the dinosaurs sported long feathers on the ends of their tails. The feathers were not suitable for flight, so they must have served some other purpose.
"Our theory," explained Persons, "was that these large feather-fans were used for the same purpose as the feather fans of many modern ground birds, like turkeys, peacocks, and prairie chickens: they were used to enhance courtship displays. My analysis of the tail skeletons supported this theory, because the skeletons showed adaptations for both high tail flexibility and enlarged tail musculature — both traits that would have helped an oviraptor to flaunt its tail fan in a mating dance."