Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

First Dinosaur Embryo Skin Discovered -- Unhatched Embryos Are First Ever Found Of Giant-Plant Eating Dinosaurs

Date:
November 18, 1998
Source:
American Museum Of Natural History
Summary:
A team of researchers have announced the discovery of a dinosaur nesting ground strewn with thousands of eggs, dozens of which still have unhatched dinosaur embryos inside. In addition to tiny embryonic bones, many of the eggs contain patches of delicate fossilized skin, providing the first glimpse of the soft tissue covering baby dinosaurs.

November 17, 1998...A team of researchers announced today in the journal Nature the discovery of a dinosaur nesting ground strewn with thousands of eggs, dozens of which still have unhatched dinosaur embryos inside. In addition to tiny embryonic bones, many of the eggs contain patches of delicate fossilized skin, providing the first glimpse of the soft tissue covering baby dinosaurs.

The extraordinary new fossils represent a number of scientific firsts: the first dinosaur embryos to show fossilized skin; the first known embryos of the giant plant-eating dinosaurs called sauropods; and the first dinosaur embryos found in the southern hemisphere. As well as appearing in Nature, the discovery is also featured in the December issue of National Geographic.

The nesting site, which dates from the late Cretaceous and is approximately 70 to 90 million years old, is located near Auca Mahuida, in the Patagonian badlands of Argentina. The research team, headed by scientists from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the Museo Municipal Carmen Funes in Neuquén, Argentina, named the new site "Auca Mahuevo" for its tremendous abundance of eggs, or huevos in Spanish. Eggs are so plentiful in the square-mile nesting site that it is virtually impossible to walk without crushing egg shell fragments under foot.

If the tiny embryos from Auca Mahuevo had hatched, the baby dinosaurs would have started life a mere fifteen inches long and grown to an adult size approaching forty-five feet long. The fossil skin reveals a scaly surface, much like the skin of a modern-day lizard. One of the fossils has a distinct stripe of larger scales near its center, which probably ran down the animal's back.

Why Auca Mahuevo yields two of the rarest of all types of fossils, fragile embryonic bones and skin casts, is one of the mysteries about the site that the team hopes to answer. Initial studies suggest that the egg clusters were laid in the floodplain of ancient streams that periodically overflowed, burying the unhatched eggs on its banks in a layer of mud. The covering of silt protected the eggs, and some of their contents, from scavengers and disintegration by the elements. Repeated cycles of egg laying and flooding could have produced the super-abundance of fossil eggs and embryos found by the team.

Given the number of egg clusters at Auca Maheuvo, hundreds, if not thousands, of giant sauropod dinosaurs must have gathered there to lay their eggs. The nesting site probably would have stretched for miles in a valley created by a series of shallow streams. However, the fossils do not reveal whether the adult dinosaurs cared for their young, or even if they made well-formed nests. It is not possible to determine precisely which kind of sauropod dinosaurs laid the eggs at Auca Maheuvo, but the discovery of tiny teeth in the eggs provides an intriguing clue. One embryo alone has at least 32 individual pencil-shaped teeth, each small enough to fit easily into the capital "O" at the beginning of this sentence. The only sauropod dinosaurs alive at the end of the Cretaceous period with teeth this shape were sauropods known as titanosaurs. The remains of these dinosaurs are common near Auca Maheuvo, making it very likely that the embryos belong to this group.

Unlike any other known sauropods, titanosaurs had bony, armored plates embedded in their skin. The embryo's skin, however, does not show any signs of armored plates, indicating that these grew only after the dinosaurs had hatched. This growth pattern mirrors that seen in modern armored lizards and crocodiles, the juveniles of which lack the bony patches in the skin that are present in adults.

The co-leaders of the expedition are: Luis M. Chiappe, research associate, American Museum of Natural History; Rodolfo A. Coria, director, Museo Municipal Carmen Funes; and Lowell Dingus, research associate, American Museum of Natural History and president, InfoQuest Foundation. Other authors of the Nature paper announcing the discovery are Frankie Jackson, research associate, Museum of the Rockies, Montana State University; Anusuya Chinsamy, assistant professor, University of Cape Town; and Marilyn Fox, preparator, Division of Vertebrate Paleontology, Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale.

The research received primary support from the National Geographic Society, InfoQuest Foundation, and the Dirección General de Cultura (Gobernación de la Provincia del Neuquén, Argentina).

The public can learn more about the expedition and the discovery on the Web sites of the American Museum of Natural History (http://www.amnh.org), National Geographic (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/dinorama), and InfoQuest Foundation (http://www.infoq.org).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Museum Of Natural History. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Museum Of Natural History. "First Dinosaur Embryo Skin Discovered -- Unhatched Embryos Are First Ever Found Of Giant-Plant Eating Dinosaurs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 November 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981118081844.htm>.
American Museum Of Natural History. (1998, November 18). First Dinosaur Embryo Skin Discovered -- Unhatched Embryos Are First Ever Found Of Giant-Plant Eating Dinosaurs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981118081844.htm
American Museum Of Natural History. "First Dinosaur Embryo Skin Discovered -- Unhatched Embryos Are First Ever Found Of Giant-Plant Eating Dinosaurs." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981118081844.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) — A ceremony marking 50 years since Japan launched its Shinkansen bullet train was held on Wednesday in Tokyo. The latest model can travel from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 319 miles, in two hours and 25 minutes. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Battle of New Orleans Cannon Gets New Carriage

Battle of New Orleans Cannon Gets New Carriage

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) — A Spanish cannon used in the Battle of New Orleans and weighing nearly 3 tons was lowered Tuesday by pulleys, chains and muscle onto a new gun carriage like one that might have held it once aboard a navy ship. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) — A 2,000 year-old Pre-Inca cloak that is believed to represent an agricultural calendar of the Paracas culture is on display in Lima. Duration: 00:39 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) — Considered lost for over two centuries, the original manuscript of one of the most famous works of Mozart's Sonata in A major has been uncovered in a library in Budapest. Duration: 01:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins