Mon
Mar 25 2013 2:00pm

Dinosaurs Did It Like This

What Was Dinosaur Sex Like

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.

What Was Dinosaur Sex Like

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.

What Was Dinosaur Sex Like

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.”

What Was Dinosaur Sex Like

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.

What Was Dinosaur Sex Like

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.

11 comments
Mordicai Knode
1. mordicai
There was a pretty good "dinos doin' it" scene in All Yesterdays, too.
AwesomeAud
2. AwesomeAud
There's an article in this month's Scientific American about dinosaur sex. One theory put forth is that in some species the female may have laid on her side during the act, since otherwise their large tails would get in the way. In some armoured species, a simple mounting from behind could well have castrated the male on the female's armour, protrusions, and horns!
AwesomeAud
4. Eugene R.
Omni was one helluva magazine, sir. I miss it, particularly the annual October "anniversary" issues.

mordicai (@3): Excuse me while I go *not* look at a corkscrew ...
Alan Brown
5. AlanBrown
This article also reminded me of how much I enjoyed Omni. I think it achieved what Campbell had always wanted for Astounding, to become a big 'slick' magazine that attracted big advertisers, and broke out into the mainstream.
As I remember, Ben Bova was the editor, and did a fine job (as he did during his all too short period as editor of Analog).
And regarding dinosaur sex, the less we dwell on that, the better!
AwesomeAud
6. Nicolas Pussin
I imagine dinos had no penetrative sex. I think female would lay eggs, and after that male would inseminate the eggs. Like, you know, fish do inseminate caviar.
Mordicai Knode
7. mordicai
6. Nicolas Pussin

Well but dinosaurs had hard shelled eggs & anatomies that are fairly suggestive of, you know, bird-like or reptile-like anatomies. & were pretty much terrestrial. A lot of strikes to that theory without needing to get too technical.
Kit Case
8. wiredog
I wish the Omni archives were online. There was a great series faux-scientific in the back page where people argued over why pizza burned the roof of the mouth. I still remember the MML/TSL controversy.
AwesomeAud
10. Gorgeous Gary
I am now going to have Dr. James Robinson's song "When Brontosaurs Fall in Love" stuck in my brain for the rest of the week. Thank you oh so very much. 8-)
Mordicai Knode
11. mordicai
8. wiredog

I was just thinking about the old kid's magazine, Odyssey.
AwesomeAud
12. flechette
this image somehow turned me on :P

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