Scientist Stephen Brusatte points out that diversity of scientists is helping to diversify discoveries. Women have increasingly contributed to this year’s most important discoveries. “It used to be an old men’s club…” Brusatte recalled, “but over the last few decades that’s started to change. My lab here in Edinburgh, for instance, is very female dominated. Of my eight Ph.D. students, seven are female.” He points to women such as Beijing-based Jingmai O’Connor, Ph.D. as being at the forefront of understanding the link between birds and dinosaurs.
The higher accident rate among inexperienced males, the researchers suggest, could be explained by a lack of female leadership among wandering males. We can use modern mammals, especially elephants, as a model for this social structure. A common habit among mammals is “male dispersal,” in which female members of a group are geographically restricted by tending to their offspring, whereas males often wander to areas with less sexual competition. If young male mammoths wandered the planes of Siberia, they likely encountered environmental hazards like mud pits and thin ice that they hadn’t been taught to properly navigate.