Paleontologists get a glimpse of a dinosaur’s butt

– This is a first for paleontology, and one that could make you laugh. For the first time, scientists have been able to describe in detail the cesspool of a dinosaur. If you’re not familiar with this part of the body, CNET translates it: It’s basically “a jack of all trades asshole.” The study published Tuesday in Current biology concerns a dog-sized herbivore that lived about 120 million years ago called Psittacosaurus. Scientists at the University of Bristol write that “it was previously noted that the cloacal region was preserved” although flattened in this fossil, found decades ago in China, but the detailed anatomy of the region is not had not been properly rebuilt. They did this, via a 3D model of the orifice opening, which was used for defecation, urination, copulation and birth.

the New York Times note “cesspool” comes from the Latin word for “sewer”, and it is not at all unique to dinosaurs: some modern birds, reptiles, amphibians and a handful of mammals have one, but to the knowledge of researchers, the cesspool is not preserved in any other non-avian dinosaur fossil. So how does this one compare to the ones we know? It’s certainly in a class of its own, but most like those seen in crocodiles and alligators. While most cloacal openings or vents appear as slits or holes, that of the Psittacosaurus has “inconspicuous side lips, but they only converge forward, giving the cesspool a unique V-shaped anatomy,” according to the study. These lips were heavily pigmented, indicating that they might have a signaling function, possibly sexual; they may also have musk glands. (Read more Discovery Stories.)

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