Weapons of Love

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A stag with his antlers, black birds with their beaks, rhinos and their horns – fauna have various tools at their disposal to use in their often violent fights over mates.

So did the bug-like Trilobites a half billion years ago, scientists recently discovered, a finding that marks the earliest evidence of sexual combat, CNN reported.

The extinct invertebrates emerged in the Early Cambrian period but died out 252 million years ago in the mass extinction that gave way to the dinosaurs.

Although there are more than 22,000 species of Trilobite, a research team focused only on the Walliserops. These marine creatures reached lengths of up to three inches and had trident-like protrusions branching off their heads.

In their study, researchers initially suggested a few uses for the protrusions, including as a weapon against predators.

But their analysis showed that the tridents were more of a “sexual weapon.”

They used a special technique to compare Walliserops’ tridents with the horns of rhinoceros beetles and found many similarities.

Their findings showed that male Trilobites used the tridents to fight and win mates.

The team cautioned, however, that they haven’t determined whether the protrusions were exclusive to males or whether females also sported them.

“In general, if there’s going to be an extravagant trait that’s used for fighting for mates, usually, it’s the males that have the extravagant trait,” said Erin McCullough, a researcher at Clark University in Massachusetts who was not involved with the study. “But biology is fun because there’s always exceptions – female reindeer have antlers.”

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