Dinos do head-butting to win over females

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Washington, Apr 1 (UNI) It is not just only men devising weirdest ways to woo women, dinosaurs are no stranger to amorous tricks either.

Dome-headed dinosaurs called pachycephalosaurs would go for head-butting cotests in order to attract females, new research says.

Eric Snively, an Alberta Ingenuity fellow at the University of Alberta, used computer software to smash the sheep-sized dinosaurs together in a virtual collision and results showed that their bony domes could emerge unscathed.

The computer simulations by Snively and his co-author Andrew Cox of Villanova University offered clues as to how the dinosaurs (between 80 and 65 million years old and native to Canada, the United States and Mongolia), might have survived head-to-head combat like modern marine iguanas and musk oxen.

Some researchers have suggested that pachycephalosaur domes, which ranged from one to 20 centimetres thick, enabled head-butting contests as a way to attract mates, similar to the contests bighorn sheep engage in today.

''It turns out that nearly-adult pachycephalosaurs would be best at handling collisions,'' Mr Snively said.

''Other researchers have shown that big adults and young juveniles would be worse off, because they couldn't heal as well. We think young adults could go at it, and older adults might intimidate youngsters with their giant domes,'' Sciencedaily quoted him as saying.

The study published in the journal Palaeontologica Electronica said the key to safe collisions wasn't just in the domes, but behind them in the body. Special sliding joints in vertebrae of pachycephalosaurs showed their backbones could buckle from collisions and then spring back into position.

''It's a little like in giraffes, who have sideways springiness in their neck ligaments and smash the heck out of each other with their heads,'' Mr Snively noted.

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