Androgynous rex - the utility of chevrons for determining the sex of crocodilians and non-avian dinosaurs

Gregory M Erickson, A Kristopher Lappin, Peter Larson
Zoology: Analysis of Complex Systems, ZACS 2005, 108 (4): 277-86
The sex of non-avian dinosaurs has been inferred on numerous occasions using a variety of anatomical criteria, but the efficacy of none has been proven. Nearly 50 years ago Romer suggested that the cranial-most or first chevron in the tails of some reptiles, including crocodilians, is sexually dimorphic. Recent work on this subject purportedly substantiated that the female first chevron articulates in a more caudal position than in males. Furthermore, it was concluded that this element is shorter in females. These phenotypic attributes theoretically provide a broader cloacal passageway for eggs by ovipositing females and a greater attachment area for male "penile retractor muscles". Because theropod dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex presumably show similar variation in chevron anatomy, the same criteria has been advocated for sexing dinosaurs. We tested the neontological model for the chevron sexual dimorphism hypothesis using a skeletonized growth series of American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) of known sex. No statistical support for the hypothesis was found. Furthermore, analysis of a diversity of crocodilian taxa from museum collections revealed similar findings suggesting the alligator results are not taxon specific. Study of well-preserved tyrannosaurid dinosaurs in museum collections showed nearly invariant chevron positioning like that seen in crocodilians. This suggests the usefulness of chevron anatomy for sexing dinosaurs is tenuous.

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