A new study published by researchers at the Queen Mary University of London has shed light on the ornamentation of a group of dinosaurs that includes Styracosaurus and Triceratops. As per the study, unlike it was earlier believed that the beautiful bracket of frills and horns were evolved for recognizing species, it has been found that these features were only present for sexual selection and to attract mating when these dinosaurs became.. Horny!.
Different species of dinosaurs developed different features to distinguish their species from another while living in the same location to avoid hybridization or inter-breeding which would result in unfit or infertile offspring. However, the latest study conducted by the researchers gives a hypothesis according to which, 46 different species of ceratopsians were examined for patterns of diversity in their ornamentation i.e. frills and horns on their head. The results showed that there is no difference between these species irrespective of whether they used to live together in the same location or different locations. The research paper is published in the journal Proceedings of Royal Society B.
In a previous paper published by Queen Mary in 2013, the researchers found that Protoceratops, a species of ceratopsian may have evolved under sexual selection. Adding to it, this new study tends to give evidence that the ornamentation may have evolved for sexual selection for all the species of Ceratopsian dinosaurs. Moving further, the paper also includes how this ornamentation evolved at a faster rate than other features.
According to Andrew Knapp, a Ph.D. candidate from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences who is the lead author of this study stated how this research tends to test the earlier hypothesis concerning the function and the origin of ornamental features on ceratopsian dinosaurs.The commonest explanation for having such a striking feature was assumed to be species recognition, however, it can be said that this is particularly not the function of the ornamentation in the group.
Researchers also stated that fossil records can offer a great deal of information about the evolution and much better than living organisms. However, these records are insufficient to trace the function of these ornamentations which is not species recognition for sure. Thus, it has been replaced with a sexual selection which is the phenomenon that scientists are increasingly confident about. The findings have triggered further research on fossils that would be required to identify and confirm such a hypothesis.