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A group of international scientists, led by Martin Lockley at the University of Colorado, have found large-scale scrapes in rock which indicate the dinosaurs engaged in the same kind of courtship displays that we associate with birds. According to scientists, dinosaurs danced, both to terrify their enemies and impress their would-be lovers.
How can they possibly deduce that from just a few scrapes in rock? To begin with, they weren’t just one set of scrapes. Researchers found similar scrapes at three different sites, two in Colorado and one in Dakota.
Both sites were what known as leks, display arenas where dinosaurs would get together to check out who was on the market, sexually speaking. The scrapes are not small. Researchers say, they were made by theropods, a big group of bipedal and carnivorous dinosaurs that included tyrannosaurs and raptors. Some of the scrapes were as deep as bathtubs.
Dinosaurs did have bird-like behaviors like nest-building. Birds are well-known for their courtship displays, so dinosaurs very well might have been the originators of such displays.
Scientists were also surprised by signs of sexual dimorphism in dinosaurs. This is the first physical evidence that paleontologists have of courtship displays from dinosaurs. If theropods did something other than scrape the world up, we don’t yet have physical evidence for it. The findings do, however, give us an interesting new picture of what dinosaurs were really like-and makes us wish we could build a Jurassic Park to see the dinosaurs dance