My curmudgeon father had a huge influence on me in a variety of ways, but the impact of his subscription to the now defunct Omni may have been the most lasting. Featuring both science fiction and actual science articles, Omni was also chock-full of wonderful images which made it one of my favorite periodicals to be swallowed up by. Plus, it appealed to my interests: space, robots, and dinosaurs! But one particular article gave a me special shock and then, in adulthood, somehow snuck up behind me, and attacked me again. And it’s all about how dinosaurs did it.
In 1988 paleontologist Beverly Halstead wrote an article called “Tyrannosaurus Sex,” which postulated that dinosaurs did it from behind. This article was full of amazing images, which for my 7-year-old self was basically the equivalent of accidentally stumbling upon your parent’s porn stash. Like most of us, I was fully ensconced in my “dinosaur phase,” which I’m happy to report, despite exposure to this Omni article (or maybe because of it?) never actually ended. Most of us have a “birds and the bees” talk thanks to some sort of comment uttered on the playground, whereas my sex education was all about “the brachiosauruses and brontosauruses.” This is a stage when one is young enough to not have even developed misconceptions about sex, making my encounter with “Tyrannosaurus Sex” all the more traumatically confusing.
And yet, I was destined to never escape dinosaur sex, as last year The Huffington Post brought my childhood memories right back into the prehistoric gutter. While I had assumed the dinosaurs-did-it-from-behind thesis was essentially true, the fact was officially confirmed by evolutionary biologist Dr. Gregory M. Erickson in 2012. From the HuffPo piece:
“I don’t think there’s much doubt about that. But, it must have been a hell of a thing to see.”
A hell of a thing indeed! Presumably, smaller dinosaurs may have had different options, but because they left behind fossils and not dirty videos, I suppose we don’t really know. This is certainly not something a normal person thinks about, but when you stumble upon the images like this at a young age, you can truly never unsee them. For me, my first brush with dino sex was like being scandalized by walking in on one’s parents.
But, try to imagine really walking in on dinosaurs! It is utterly horrifying, and yet, strangely, I really wish I could see it in a more literal way, rather than my accidental exposure to the Omni piece, and then years later, the HuffPo follow-up. It’s the one thing in life I feel like I’m being unfairly denied, and I really want it. Show me dino-screwing!
Because while I may have been baffled by what sex was as a 7-year-old, I did know these dinos looked very, very happy.
This article appeared in a shorter form in July 2012 on Tor.com
For more on Dinosaur Sex, check out this Scientific American piece from Brian Switek.
Ryan Britt is the staff writer for Tor.com.