The two raptors both died and were buried next to each other when a large sand dune collapsed on top of them, according to paleontologists at the University of Alberta.
The two oviraptors - birdlike dinosaurs - were given the nicknames 'Romeo and Juliet' because they seemed reminiscent of Shakespeare's famously doomed lovers. However, the sex of the dinosaurs was not known.
"Determining a dinosaur's gender is really hard," said graduate student Scott Persons, lead author of the research."Because soft anatomy seldom fossilises, a dinosaur fossil usually provides no direct evidence of whether it was a male or a female," said Persons.
Back in 2011, Persons and his colleagues published research on the tails of oviraptors. Oviraptors were strictly land-bound animals, but possessed fans of long feathers on the ends of their tails.
This posed a question: If these dinosaurs were not able to fly, what good were their tail feathers?
"Our theory was that these large feather fans were used for the same purpose as the feather fans of many modern ground birds, like turkeys, peacocks and prairie chickens: they were used to enhance courtship displays," said Persons.
In the new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, Persons and his team have confirmed sexual dimorphism, after meticulous observation of the two oviraptor specimens.
"We discovered that, although both oviraptors were roughly the same size, the same age and otherwise identical in all anatomical regards, 'Romeo' had larger and specially shaped tail bones," said Persons.
According to Persons, the two may very well have been a mated pair, making for an altogether romantic story, as the dinosaur couple was preserved side by side for more than 75 million years.


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