Tyrannosaurus Sex: Science Resolves One of Life's Most Important QuestionsSubmitted by Quartermain at 2012-07-13 21:31:02 EDT
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How did dinosaurs get busy? It's a burning question that none of the first three Jurassic Park flicks was able to answer for us. But scientists have been discussing the ins and outs of dino doinking for quite some time now, and they finally seem to be agreeing on how it got done.
Before we get to how exactly dinosaurs mated, it's probably worth asking why there's any confusion in the first place. Well, for one thing, most dinosaurs were really big and really heavy. For another, many of them had spikes and bone plates and other prickly parts that could have made sex a little ... difficult. Obviously they mated, but it's taken scientists a while to settle on a method that would have allowed for all that weight and all those uncomfortable parts at the same time.
The answer is actually pretty simple. Male dinosaurs mounted female dinosaurs from behind. Like modern birds and reptiles, dinosaurs had a single orifice for both reproduction and waste disposal, called a cloaca. To wittol, they simply need to press the openings together for a "cloacal kiss," though it's been noted that some male dinosaurs possibly did have penises to help them along (it's even been suggested that male tyrannosaurs packed a member as big as 12 feet in length).
The view that dinosaurs mated successfully despite their size, armor and tails through front-to-back intercourse was popularized by English paleontologist Beverly Halstead, who wrote this description in Omni magazine back in 1988.
"All dinosaurs used the same basic position to wittol. Mounting from the rear, he put his forelimbs on her shoulders, lifting one hind limb across her back and twisting his tail under hers to align the cloaca."
Halstead died in 1991, but other paleontologists have since taken up his view on the subject.
"I don't think there's much doubt about that," said Gregory M. Erickson, an evolutionary biologist at Florida State University. "It must have been a hell of a thing to see."
Check out an artist's rendering of said "hell of a thing" below (slightly NSFW), and ponder the implication it'll have on future big-budget dinosaur movies.