Can math tell us about the gender differences in dinosaurs? A new study published a novel statistical analysis that estimates the degree of sexual variation found in fossils.
"It's a whole new way of looking at fossils and judging the likelihood that the traits we see correlate with sex," says Evan Saitta, a research associate at Chicago's Field Museum and the lead author of the new paper in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. "This paper is part of a larger revolution of sorts about how to use statistics in science, but applied in the context of paleontology."
It is challenging to determine the sex of dinosaurs especially with a phenomenon called sexual dimorphism exhibited in modern-day dinosaur relatives—birds and crocodiles
"We showed that if you adopt this paradigm shift in statistics, where you attempt to estimate the magnitude of an effect and then put error bars around that, you can often produce a fairly accurate estimate of sexual variation even when the sexes of the individuals are unknown," says Saitta.
"Sexual selection is such an important driver of evolution, and to limit ourselves to ineffective statistical approaches hurts our ability to understand the paleobiology of these animals," he says. "We need to account for sexual variation in the fossil record."
"I'm happy to play a small part in this sort of statistical revolution," he adds. "Effect size statistics has a major impact for psychological and medical research, so to apply it to dinosaurs and paleontology is really cool."
Source: Science Daily