Duck-billed dinosaurs had fleshy head crests similar to rooster’s combs according to new research published in the Dec. 12, 2013, edition of the journal Current Biology by Phil Bell from Australia's University of New England and Federico Fanti from the University of Bologna in Italy.
The researchers based their new findings on the discovery of a mummified specimen of Edmontosaurus regalis in deposits near Grande Prairie in Alberta, Canada. Edmontosaurus regalis and other duck-billed dinosaurs were extremely common in North America between 65 and 75 million years ago.
Previous studies had concluded that duck-billed dinosaur head crests were hard and probably bony. The newly discovered mummified specimen of Edmontosaurus regalis definitely shows signs of the head crest being fleshy and soft. The crest was most likely a shade of red based on chemical composition.
The researchers make the assumption that soft head crests were a common trait of all duck-billed dinosaurs because all known species that have been found to date are related.
The head crest in duck-billed dinosaurs is thought to have served a function in mating. The distinctive color and the potential for moving a fleshy head crest to some extent adds weight to the thought that duck-billed dinosaur males used head crests to attract females and to warn off other males from a given male’s harem.