They didn’t waltz or do salsa, but theropods did dig deep furrows into the earth by dancing as part of a mating ritual. The predator Arcrocanthosaurus had rhythm even though he grew up to 38 feet long and weighed as much as 6.8 tons. They twisted, turned and kicked to impress.

Paleontologists from the University of Colorado, Denver recently discovered a “dinosaur dance floor,” area called Leks, where males gathered to perform ritualistic behaviors to impress the females and to find a mate. The scrape marks created were found in the Dakota sandstone, a layer of sediment laid down around 100 million years ago in the Midwest and West during the Cretaceous period.

PR shot of scrapes
Paleontologists Martin Lockley and Ken Kart at the Lek Site

These marks were found at several sites in Colorado. The largest site contained about 60 impressions. Some were over 6 feet long with two long furrows with claw marks. Theropod footsteps located nearby indicated that the digging was done by theropods. The scraping likely signaled the dinosaur’s strength and nest-building ability, a behavior found in many modern birds, descendants of the dinosaurs.

therapod tracks
Therepod Tracks

The study, published in the scientific journal, states,

Here we present extensive and geographically widespread physical evidence of substrate scraping behavior by large theropods considered as compelling evidence of “display arenas” or leks, and consistent with “nest scrape display” behavior among many extant ground-nesting birds … The scrapes most probably occur near nesting colonies, as yet unknown or no longer preserved in the immediate study area.


This may be the first direct evidence of dinosaur breeding behavior.

Chubby Checker wasn’t the first creature to do the twist.

Nancy Loyan Schuemann

Nancy Loyan Schuemann is a writer specializing in architecture, safes, profiles, histories and a multi-published fiction and non-fiction author and is Nailah, Middle Eastern dancer.

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