Life History, Sexual Dimorphism and 'Ornamental' Feathers in the Mesozoic Bird Confuciusornis sanctus
The life history of Confuciusornis sanctus is controversial. Recently, the species’ body size spectrum was claimed to contradict osteohistological evidence for a rapid, bird-like development. Moreover, sexual size dimorphism was rejected as an explanation for the observed bimodal size distribution since the presence of elongated rectrices, an assumed ‘male’ trait, was uncorrelated with size. However, this interpretation (i) fails to explain the size spectrum of C. sanctus which is trimodal rather than bimodal, (ii) requires implausible neonate masses and (iii) is not supported by analogy with sexual dimorphisms in modern birds, in which elongated central rectrices are mostly sex-independent. Available information on C. sanctus is readily reconciled if we assume a bird-like life history, as well as a pronounced sexual size dimorphism and sexually isomorphic extravagant feathers as frequently observed in extant species.
Winfried S. Peters and D. S. Peters (2009).
Life History, Sexual Dimorphism and 'Ornamental' Feathers in the Mesozoic Bird Confuciusornis sanctus. Biology Letters.5 (6), 817-820.