Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Uncover New Burrowing Dinosaur

Date:
March 26, 2007
Source:
Emory University
Summary:
Paleontologists have uncovered the world's first fossil evidence of burrowing behavior in dinosaurs. The 95-million-year-old skeletal remains of the diminutive dinosaur -- along with the bones of two juveniles -- were found tucked into a fossilized chamber at the end of a sediment-filled burrow in southwestern Montana.

Paleontologists have uncovered the skeletal remains of 95-million-year-old burrowing dinosaurs.
Credit: Lee Hall: Montana State University

An Emory University paleontologist, collaborating with colleagues from Montana State University and Japan, has uncovered the world's first fossil evidence of burrowing behavior in dinosaurs. The study appears in the current Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences issue online.

The 95-million-year-old skeletal remains of the diminutive dinosaur -- along with the bones of two juveniles -- were found tucked into a fossilized chamber at the end of a sediment-filled burrow in southwestern Montana.

"The discovery represents the first scientific evidence that some dinosaurs not only dug burrows but also cared extensively for their young inside their dens," says Anthony Martin, senior lecturer in Emory's Department of Environmental Studies, of the newly named species of dinosaur, Oryctodromeus cubicularis, meaning "digging runner of the lair."

The discovery is reported by Martin and his colleagues, David Varricchio, of Montana State University, Bozeman; and Yoshihiro Katsura of Gifu Prefectural Museum in Japan. The study was funded by the Jurassic Foundation and the Department of Earth Sciences at Montana State University.

"The presence of an adult and two juveniles within a denning chamber represents some of the best evidence for dinosaur parental care," Varricchio says. "The burrow likely protected the adult and young Oryctodromeus from predators and harsh environmental conditions. Burrowing behavior may have allowed other dinosaurs to survive in extreme environments such as polar regions and deserts, and questions some end-Cretaceous extinction hypotheses."

The study notes that the dimensions of the burrowing tunnel and its end chamber were only slightly larger than the skeletal remains of the adult O. cubicularis, making it difficult for relatively large predators to enter the tunnel. Through computational analysis, the researchers estimated that the herbivorous dinosaur weighed between 22 kg and 32 kg, was 2.1 m long (about seven feet), including a 1.25 m tail, and had a trunk breadth of 26 cm to 30 cm. The juveniles were about 55 to 65 percent the size of the adult.

Because the burrow was filled with sediment, the researchers hypothesize that the dinosaurs had drowned after water breeched a nearby riverbank and flooded their den. The sediment, says Martin, helped preserve all three skeletons as well the burrow structure.

The dinosaur's functional morphology gleaned from its skeleton also confirms that O. cubicularis was both a seasoned digger and an accomplished runner. Oryctodromeus possessed several physical traits suited for digging: a modified snout that could be used as a shovel; large bony attachments in the shoulder to accommodate powerful muscles; and a robustly built hip that allowed for bracing during digging. In contrast to many modern digging animals, the dinosaur had long hind limbs and was well adapted for running on two legs.

In addition to the three dinosaurs found, the team also uncovered fossil evidence of other burrowing animals, most likely invertebrates, which lived alongside O. cubicularis. The finding reinforces the idea that the dinosaur was a burrower.

"As we dug, we found five or six small burrows coming off the main one, filled with the same sediment, which convinced me that this was a dinosaur burrow," says Martin. "Burrowing vertebrates often live in the same environment with burrowing bees, wasps or beetles."

Martin says he and his colleagues will return to Montana to see if they can find more burrows as previously uncovered fossil evidence indicates that other species of herbivorous dinosaurs often lived in nesting colonies.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Emory University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Emory University. "Researchers Uncover New Burrowing Dinosaur." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 March 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070325202715.htm>.
Emory University. (2007, March 26). Researchers Uncover New Burrowing Dinosaur. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 14, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070325202715.htm
Emory University. "Researchers Uncover New Burrowing Dinosaur." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070325202715.htm (accessed September 14, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Museum Traces Fragments of Star-Spangled Banner

Museum Traces Fragments of Star-Spangled Banner

AP (Sep. 12, 2014) As the Star-Spangled Banner celebrates its bicentennial, Smithsonian curators are still uncovering fragments of the original flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's poem. (Sept. 12) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) New research has shown that the Spinosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur, might have been just as well suited for life in the water as on land. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Meet Spinosaurus, the First-Known Water Dinosaur

Meet Spinosaurus, the First-Known Water Dinosaur

AFP (Sep. 11, 2014) Spinosaurus aegyptiacus was adapted for both land and water, and an exhibit featuring a life-sized model, based on new fossils unearthed in eastern Morocco, opens at the National Geographic Museum in Washington on Friday. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NatGeo Unveils Life-Size 'Spinosaurus'

NatGeo Unveils Life-Size 'Spinosaurus'

AP (Sep. 11, 2014) Scientists announced new findings about the first ever non-bird dinosaur that could have lived much of its time in the water. National Geographic created a life-size 50-foot model of the prehistoric creature. (Sept. 11) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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