back to article Boffins sex pterodactyls at last

Bone-furtling boffins say they have cracked one of the most difficult tasks known among dinosaur aficionados - namely, that of sexing pterodactyls. Sex related features of Darwinopterus. The male (right) has a large head crest, but this is absent in the female (left). Picture credit: Mark Witton Have you got a canoe on your …


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  1. The Indomitable Gall

    Silly boffins...

    " Apart from crestlessness, according to the investigating boffins, another distinctive feature of the lady pterodactyl is wider hips to permit easier passage of eggs. "

    Last I checked, all female vertebrates had bigger pelvises for this very reason. (Well, either eggs or live young.) Surely a correlation of crests with relative pelvis size would have given them their answer yonks ago?

    1. Liam Johnson

      I think you overlooked

      "But, in the absence of any direct evidence for gender this idea remained speculative..."

  2. Marcus Aurelius

    The *REALLY* important question is

    What's the airspeed velocity of an unladen pterodactyl?

    Just to anticipate those of you who are going to ask African or European you'll get thrown off the bridge because the possibilities are:

    Triassic: Pangean

    Jurassic: Laurasian or Gondwanan

    Cretaceous: African (Europe was mostly underwater)

  3. Elmer Phud


    "Until lately even the most knowledgeable paleontologists, finding a fossilised pterodactyl, would be unsure what sex the creature had been . . . . or someone meeting a dwarf in Terry Pratchett's Discworld stories."

    Easy, the beards are better looked after.

  4. Cameron Colley

    I'm sure I won't be the first to suggest:

    They should have named it pTracey.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The chap on the right is not entirely unfamiliar

    It's the dead spit of a the Southern Cassowary:

    It's a very rare bird with an estimated 800 or so remaining in Australia. We get them wandering out of the forest and into our garden quite often, something I'm most happy about. When it comes to breeding they make giant pandas look like Catholics.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it must be female

    I laugh whenever I hear the latest crackpot idea from "scientists". It's like originally T-Rex was the beastiest hunter in all the land.. and suddenly last year it's now a scavenger.

    At the end of the day, it's speculation - with a lot of scientific basis, sure.. but still speculation

    1. xperroni

      Re: it must be female

      Actually, most often what happens is something like this:

      Boffin: "Based on currently available paleonthological dara, we've created a computer model of the T-Rex osteomuscular system. After running some tests, we estimated the T-Rex wouldn't be able to run very fast, or for very long. That places limitations on the kind of prey it would be able to pursue, leading us to believe it would be obligued to at least complement its diet with carrion."

      Press: "OMG T-REXES NOT HUNTARS!!1!!!1!1!!"

      That is, some boffin publishes a paper describing research which is still ongoing, with conclusions full of 'but's 'if's and 'could's, then along come the journos and completely misreport it. To be fair, El Reg usually does a good job of relaying the nuances, and this particular case seems pretty open and shut – but the general press couldn't be found dead reading a scientific paper, they just look for the headline grabber.

  7. TeeCee Gold badge

    @Mahatma Coat

    "When it comes to breeding they make giant pandas look like Catholics."

    So, to ensure the survival of the Giant Panda all we have to do is work out what exactly the form of the Panda marriage ceremony is, hook a few up officially and they'll then shag like crazed mink and produce huge families?

    I'd been wondering where the captive breeding programs had been going wrong. Thank you for clearing that up.

  8. silentcoder

    Instant question:

    How is being found with an egg proof of being female ? Many birds share egg-roosting duties, who says Pterosaurs didn't ? Okay the "almost fully developed" is a bit of suggestion that the egg was just laid, which I suppose means the odds of female are better - but some birds the male literally takes over immediately after laying for the first shift so the female can rest after the task of laying itself. We don't actually know how Pterosaurs handled eggs, did they mate for life ? Did the male leave right after mating ? Who knows - these are things we can only speculate on -even among modern birds there is too much variety to draw any conclusions and pterosaurs were around quite long enough to have evolved any or all of the same behaviours but we don't know what they did evolve - or even if it may have been something completely different that modern birds never replicated.

    1. Ian Yates


      I had the same thought.

      And, as unlikely as it is, what if the male pterodactyl is the one that carries eggs to term (like seahorses)?

      1. PsYcHoTiC_MaDmAn

        not the same

        in male seahorses, the eggs are transfered from the female to the male. but its still the female who produces the eggs.

        and unlike "pregnancy" all the male seahorse is doing is protecting them (dependent on species, the eggs can be attached either to the skin or enveloped in a brooding pouch) whilst this might seem like pregnancy its considerably different, inasmuch as it isn't really internal.

        as the actual press release from the University of Leicester states,

        "The well developed shell shows that Mrs T was just about ready to lay her egg..."

        (theres photos if you want to check)

        and whilst some birds take turns with the egg (eg penguins) they are keeping it warm externally, which is very different from shoving it inside them...... which is what yo are suggesting.

  9. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Pterodactyl???? Never trust spokespeople, they know not what they write

    Darwinopterus is a genus in the pterosaur order. Pterodactyls are another genus in the same order but belong to a completely different family.

  10. Andy Farley

    It sounds to me

    like the egg had not actually been laid yet.

  11. Brian Utterback

    If you look at the pictures...

    The link in the article goes to the original press release and has picture. The egg appears to be inside the rest of the fossil. I am not an expert, so I couldn't even speculate in this regard, but I am pretty sure that the scientists involved wouldn't say the the fossil is female unless they at least thought that the egg was un-laid.

  12. Mark York 3 Silver badge

    I'm Probably The Only One

    That saw Mrs T in the article & instantly mentally imaged Maggie Thatcher.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      that's now two Mrs Ts that were around in the time of the dinosaurs?

  13. norman

    "sexing pterodactyls"

    Be very careful, and wear protection...

  14. Hollerith 1

    Mrs T

    "There is no such genus as Pterodactyls, only individuals and their families."

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