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article imageMesozoic Romance: Dinosaurs bred young

By Paul Wallis     Jan 15, 2008 in Science
Even the dinosaurs had precocious teenagers. New evidence indicates that they started breeding at pre-adult ages. One thing that’s becoming clear is that they definitely didn’t breed like reptiles, much more like birds or mammals.
It’s the age old story, kids meet, fall in love, lay eggs, and try not to get eaten.
From the BBC:
Researchers at the University of California found hallmark "egg-making" tissue in two juvenile females.
They say early sexual maturity was needed for survival, so females could lay eggs before becoming prey.
Calcium-rich medullary bone, which, in birds, is used to produce egg shells, was found inside the fossilized shin-bones of two specimens: the meat-eating Allosaurus and the plant-eater Tenontosaurus
. “
They got lucky, too. This particular type of bone doesn’t last too long in living animals. It only forms for a few weeks in reproductively mature female dinosaurs and has previously been found in a female Tyrannosaurus Rex. The female T. Rex, however, was 18 years old. The new finds were 8 and 10 years old, so maturity in the various species was obviously different.
The environment was a bit different, too. Unlike our food chain, predators were far more common among dinosaur populations, relative to prey. The pressure to reproduce would have been much tougher. The theory is that birds picked up their breeding patterns from about 200 million years ago, during the dinosaur era.
I can see it now: A few of the girls go downtown to eat some pine trees, and they meet some guys with similar tastes. What with the herd all around, belching encouragement, and the wild disco music, and the flies and excitement, something was bound to happen.
Then the meeting with Mom and Dad, who still has that bit of cycad sticking out of his head:
“Mom, Dad! I’ve…er,… laid some eggs…?”
“That’s nice, dear…”
"What were you expecting to lay, fish?"
Followed by bumping into a few Tyrannosaurs who were also out for romance and a bit of hardcore eating. They have similar tastes, too, just tend to be a bit more personal.
Enter second love interest:
Two of the Tyrannosaurs see each other through a romantic ribcage, and have a squabble over a bit of head.
Another T. Rex tries to butt in, and they both attack him. As Elvis Pterodactyl croons Flamin’ Star, they dance off into the Cretaceous.
Ain’t love grand?
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