Sex Lives of Dinosaurs with Rob Knell

Monday 16th February 2015

We all know about the plates on the backs of Stegosaurus and the horns of Triceratops, but the function of many of the strange features of these iconic dinosaurs is still debatable. One explanation which has been becoming favoured in the last few years is that many of these horns, crests, plates and sails evolved via the process of “Sexual selection”.

Palaeontologists have traditionally avoided using sexual selection as an explanation for the exaggerated features found on many extinct animals because it is very hard to test ideas about the behavioural significance of such traits when we are unable to observe an animal’s behaviour.

Rob will describe a variety of possible sexual selection examples in the fossil record along with some of the problems that need to be overcome if we are to be able to interpret these structures properly.

Rob Knell is Reader in Evolutionary Ecology at Queen Mary, University of London. His research is mostly geared towards animals which are actually alive, with a focus on how the environment can affect aspects of animal biology including aggression, immunity and mating behaviour. An interest in sexual selection and palaeontology has led to a recent series of publications on the controversial subject of sexual selection in the fossil record in collaboration with a number of “proper” palaeontologists in the UK and the USA.

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