Thursday, April 14, 2011

Did dinosaurs have sex?

Sooner or later, your kids are bound to ask. [PARENTAL GUIDE: This post is Rated PG-13, sort of. But no worries: I've edited things a bit to avoid freaking out the innocent.] So, did T-Rex & Company have sex and, if so, how did these mega-ton creatures manage to, you know, "do it?" The answers are yes and we don't have a clue. Diving straight for the Jurassic gutter, Slate's Explainer Column explains:
"Paleontologists know very little about how dinosaurs mated, because soft tissue rarely appears in fossils. (They figured out how to determine dinosaur gender only a few years ago: Females had a special calcium reservoir to help with eggshell formation.) It is highly probable that dinosaurs had a cloaca—as do most birds and reptiles—which is a single opening for urination, defecation, and reproduction. If that's the case, we might speculate that the male and female would have aligned their cloacae such that the male's "member" [rhymes with Venus] could emerge to "engage" the female cloaca. (It's also possible that dinosaurs had no "members," and, like some birds, reproduced by [um, let's just say, "spreading the love" aerially] from one cloaca to another.) Modern ornithologists and herpetologists call this a "cloacal kiss." Beyond that, it's all conjecture."
As for guesses about "mating positions, duration, and behavior," forget it - we're not going there. Contact your local paleontologist (or read the Slate piece) if you really want to know. Okay, you can uncover your kid's eyes now. Just don't blame me when when your little princess asks, "Daddy, what's a member and why is it from Venus?" ;-)

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