Research led by members of MECADEV, CR2P and ISYEB, in collaboration with the Musée d'Angoulême and published in the scientific journal eLife, shows for the first time the existence of sexual dimorphism in a group of theropod dinosaurs.
Sexual dimorphism is challenging to detect among fossils due to a lack of statistical representativeness. The Angeac-Charente Lagerstätte (France) represents a remarkable ‘snapshot’ from a Berriasian (Early Cretaceous) ecosystem and offers a unique opportunity to study intraspecific variation among a herd of at least 61 coeval ornithomimosaurs. Herein, we investigated the hindlimb variation across the best-preserved specimens from the herd through 3D Geometric Morphometrics and Gaussian Mixture Modeling. Our results based on complete and fragmented femora evidenced a dimorphism characterized by variations in the shaft curvature and the distal epiphysis width. Since the same features vary between sexes among modern avian dinosaurs, crocodilians, and more distant amniotes, we attributed this bimodal variation to sexual dimorphism based on the extant phylogenetic bracketing approach. Documenting sexual dimorphism in fossil dinosaurs allows a better characterization and accounting of intraspecific variations, which is particularly relevant to address ongoing taxonomical and ecological questions relative to dinosaur evolution.
- Référence : Romain Pintore, Raphaël Cornette, Alexandra Houssaye, Ronan Allain. 2023. eLife. Femora from an exceptionally large population of coeval ornithomimosaurs yield evidence of sexual dimorphism in extinct theropod dinosaurs. DOI : https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.83413