If you watch a pair of albatrosses bobbing heads, two cranes looking skyward in synchrony or a bird-of-paradise showing off to a female, it’s hard to call those behaviors anything but dancing. And it seems that bird ancestors were doing these elaborate courtships a long, long time ago.
A set of fossilized footprints found in Colorado appears to be the first evidence of non-avian mating rituals. The tracks, dated to 100 million years ago and attributed to large theropod dinosaurs, show that the animals scraped and stomped the ground while remaining in the same spot – a behavior widely observed in dancing birds today.
One big dinosaur found in the region may have been the culprit: Acrocanthosaurus atokensis, an apex predator that weighed up to almost 7 tons. The size and shape of the footprints fit this species, as well as the time they’ve been dated to and the location they were found. Given the size of these theropods, the results of such exuberant dances must have been heard for miles.