As might be expected, sex was the main driving force in evolution (although not all prehistoric creatures were sexy). In today’s world, how fast we modern humans can judge whether or not someone of the opposite sex is looking at us depends on how masculine or feminine they look.

Today we have the mocking bird’s song, the peacock’s tail and robin’s red breast, but millions of years ago, there were creatures like flying reptiles called Pterosaurs that had huge head crests, as well as small animals with elaborate “sails” on their backs. BBC News quotes researcher Dave Martill as saying, “Pterosaurs put even more effort into attracting a mate than peacocks whose large feathers are considered the most elaborate development of sexual selection in the modern day. Peacocks shed their fantastic plumage each year, so it’s only a burden some of the time, but pterosaurs had to carry their crest around all the time.”

BBC quotes researcher Joseph Tompkins as saying, “Our analysis suggests that male Pteranodon competed with each other in battles for dominance using their crests in a similar way to animals with horns or antlers. Or alternatively, that females assessed males on the size of their crests, in a similar way to peahens choosing among a group of displaying males.”

Meanwhile, quotes psychologist Benedict Jones as saying that in his experiments, “Women were quickest to classify gaze direction when they were looking at hunky, masculine-looking guys. Guys were quicker when they were looking at pretty, feminine women.” This is probably because they make the most fertile mates.

Maybe only the females (both prehistoric and modern) could decide if all this effort was worth it.

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