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A crocodylian-style cloaca in a non-avialan dinosaur

By Phil R. Bell, Michael Pittman, Thomas G. Kaye, Christophe Hendrickx

Posted 12 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.11.335398

Our knowledge of the reproductive biology of dinosaurs covers a range of aspects, from brooding behaviour to nesting style and the timing of sexual maturity. Yet, the basic anatomy and function of the cloaca in non-avialan dinosaurs remains unknown. Here, we describe the outer morphology of the only known non-avialan dinosaur cloaca, preserved in an exceptional specimen of the early-diverging ceratopsian dinosaur Psittacosaurus . We clarify the position of the cloaca with respect to the ischia and caudal vertebrae and document the scales immediately adjacent to the abdomen and tail. We find that the cloaca is from a near-sexually mature subadult individual and is most similar to the cloaca of crocodylians, to the exclusion of lepidosaurians and birds. However, the sex of SMF R 4970 could not be determined as the cloaca and the rest of the specimen does not yield any sexually dimorphic information. This study highlights the ongoing role of exceptional specimens in providing rare soft tissues that help to bridge longstanding gaps in our knowledge of the basic biology of dinosaurs and other extinct reptiles. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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