The Dinos And The Bees
How did the “terrible lizards” make the beast with two backs?
Robert Krulwich takes an entertaining look at the current theories of dinosaur reproduction at his blog, with help from Brian Switek’s great new book My Beloved Brontosaurus and some hilarious illustrations by Robert himself (one borrowed above). Do check out his write-up.
From the smallest, chickenesque raptors to the largest, long-necked sauropods to the armored, spiny stegosaurs to the violent and fearsome tyrannosaurs, one things for sure: It took a mommy and daddy dinosaur to make a baby dinosaur.
What is less clear is precisely how that worked. Modern birds descended from dinosaurs, and they provide some hints. For instance, most birds don’t have external baby-making accessories. Instead they have “everything holes” called cloacas (like these amorous penguins) that house their reproductive machinery inside. Dino reproduction would have involved a lot of careful alignment and what could only be described as “frisky friction”.
But not all birds are limited to the cloacal kiss. Ducks have famously corkscrewed screwcorks (which evolved to help females be more selective about mates). Crocodiles are also quipped with a snake of sorts, as are the older lineages of lizards and birds. So when it came down to doing the deed, it’s likely that some sort of external equipment would have been involved. Sadly, that’s a “bone” that doesn’t fossilize.
And that doesn’t even begin to address how a sauropod the size of a house or a spiky stegosaur could have gotten within docking range without risking life and limb.
It’s an amazing set of questions. And you thought your love life was complicated …