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Sensitive Reptile Roundup

January 18, 2013

Some dinosaurs may have used feathers to show off, much like some modern birds.



Dinosaurs showing off. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In films, dinosaurs are nothing but relentless eating machines. But according to University of Alberta paleontologist Scott Persons, at least some had a more artistic side, engaging in peacock like tail-feather displays. Persons identified four species of dinosaurs with anatomical tail features that today are unique to peacocks, turkeys and other birds who flash showy tail feathers to attract mates. The dinosaurs had no other flight adaptations, leading Persons to conclude that they must have been used for show.

In other reptile news, scientists report in the Journal of Experimental Biology that the snouts of alligators and crocodiles are incredibly touch sensitive—more sensitive even than human fingertips. They suggest that the sensitivity helps the reptiles tell the difference between inedible debris floating in the water and tasty fish, frogs and birds. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Dinosaurs such as this Caudipteryx may have used their flashy feathers to impress potential mates. (Matt Martyniuk/Wikipedia)