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Dinosaur Copulation

At 3:17 PM 9/7/95, Jeff Poling wrote:
>>        Actually, it just now occurred to me:  don't male elephants have to
>>rear to copulate with the females?  I always wondered how sauropods
>>mated...but that darned tail still gets in the way!
>   <sigh>  This had to be said eventually.
>   Maybe we've discovered the true use of those long necks.
>   <ducking and running>


        Actually, in all seriousness, this is a peculiar topic, in that
it's an obvious facet of dinosaurian lives, and yet it's still kind of a
taboo in the field (although it _is_ becoming less so).  Compared to vast
quantities of research in other aspects of dinosaurian paleobiology,
dinosaur copulatory techniques has received little attention.  One
generally hears "The tail gets in the way," but not much other than that.

        I've devoted a little thought to the process, especially having
seen some peculiar bones associated with the occasional sauropod skeleton
that don't resemble anything else in the skeleton, except possibly a vastly
deformed rib -- a sauropod baculum?  A survey of dinosaur baculae has not,
to my knowledge, been performed, if they're even supposed to exist (just
exactly what factors govern if an animal has a baculum or not?  At least
some vivveravids do, and I know the walruses do...is there a connection?)
But it still beggars the question...

        I understand that whales have "prehensile" (for lack of a better
term) penises which greatly facilitate copulation for animals with
gigantic, otherwise awkward bodies.  This particular strategy might help
explain mating techniques especially in large ornithopods, which have deep,
very stiff tails which are, I would think, more difficult to move out of
the way than the more flexible tails of, say, sauropods.

        My pardon if this topic has been covered before on the server; I
don't recall seeing it.

Jerry D. Harris
Shuler Museum of Paleontology
Southern Methodist University
Box 750395
Dallas  TX  75275-0395
(214) 768-2750
FAX:  (214) 768-2701
        (Compuserve:  73132,3372)

---------/O\------*     --->|:|:|>     w___/^^^\--o

"If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and
quacks like a duck, then it is the sister taxon to,
but cannot parsimoniously be, the direct ancestor
to all other ducks."

                                --  _not_ W. Hennig

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