Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient dinosaur nursery: Oldest nesting site yet found

Date:
January 24, 2012
Source:
University of Toronto
Summary:
An excavation at a site in South Africa has unearthed the 190-million-year-old dinosaur nesting site of the prosauropod dinosaur Massospondylus -- revealing significant clues about the evolution of complex reproductive behavior in early dinosaurs.

UTM professor Robert Reisz and his team unearthed this skull of adult and complete embryo of the Early Jurassic (190-million-year-old) dinosaur Massospondylus in the South African nesting site.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Robert Reisz

An excavation at a site in South Africa has unearthed the 190-million-year-old dinosaur nesting site of the prosauropod dinosaur Massospondylus-revealing significant clues about the evolution of complex reproductive behaviour in early dinosaurs. The newly unearthed dinosaur nesting ground predates previously known nesting sites by 100 million years, according to study authors.

A new study led by University of Toronto Mississauga paleontologist Robert Reisz, with co-author, Professor David Evans of ecology and evolutionary biology and the Royal Ontario Museum, along with a group of international researchers, describes clutches of eggs, many with embryos, as well as tiny dinosaur footprints, providing the oldest known evidence that the hatchlings remained at the nesting site long enough to at least double in size.

At least 10 nests have been discovered at several levels at this site, each with up to 34 round eggs in tightly clustered clutches. The distribution of the nests in the sediments indicate that these early dinosaurs returned repeatedly to this site, a behaviour known as nesting fidelity, and likely assembled in groups to lay their eggs, (colonial nesting), the oldest known evidence of such behaviour in the fossil record. The large size of the mother, at six metres in length, the small size of the eggs, about six to seven centimetres in diameter, and the highly organized nature of the nest suggest that the mother may have arranged them carefully after she laid them.

"The eggs, embryos, and nests come from the rocks of a nearly vertical road cut only 25 metres long," said Reisz, a professor of biology at U of T Mississauga. "Even so, we found ten nests, suggesting that there are a lot more in the cliff, still covered by tons of rock. We predict that many more nests will be eroded out in time as natural weathering processes continue."

The fossils were found in sedimentary rocks from the Early Jurassic Period in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in South Africa. This site has previously yielded the oldest known embryos belonging to Massospondylus, a relative of the giant, long-necked sauropods of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

"Even though the fossil record of dinosaurs is extensive, we actually have very little fossil information about their reproductive biology, particularly for early dinosaurs," said Evans (pictured left, bottom, with Reisz, above), associate curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum. "This amazing series of 190 million year old nests gives us the first detailed look at dinosaur reproduction early in their evolutionary history, and documents the antiquity of nesting strategies that are only known much later in the dinosaur record."

The study, co-authored by Drs. Hans-Dieter Sues (Smithsonian Institute, U.S.), Eric Roberts (James Cook University, Australia), and Adam Yates (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa), is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

An exhibition currently on display at the Royal Ontario Museum until May 2012, Dinosaurs Eggs and Babies: Remarkable Fossils from South Africa, features the oldest fossilized dinosaur eggs with embryos ever found, as well as other impressive discoveries


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Toronto. The original article was written by Nicolle Wahl. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Robert R. Reisz, David C. Evans, Eric M. Roberts, Hans-Dieter Sues, Adam M. Yates. Oldest known dinosaurian nesting site and reproductive biology of the Early Jurassic sauropodomorph Massospondylus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1109385109

Cite This Page:

University of Toronto. "Ancient dinosaur nursery: Oldest nesting site yet found." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120123152505.htm>.
University of Toronto. (2012, January 24). Ancient dinosaur nursery: Oldest nesting site yet found. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120123152505.htm
University of Toronto. "Ancient dinosaur nursery: Oldest nesting site yet found." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120123152505.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) — A couple found love letters from World War I in their attic. They were able to deliver them to relatives of the writer of those letters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) — Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) — Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Newsy (Apr. 12, 2014) — Archeologists have found many fossils in the La Brea Tar Pits, including those of saber-tooth tigers and mammoths. Video provided by Newsy
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:

More Coverage


Fossils in South Africa Reveal Dinosaur Nesting Site: 190 Million Years Old

Jan. 23, 2012 — An excavation at a site in South Africa has unearthed the 190-million-year-old dinosaur nesting site of the prosauropod dinosaur Massospondylus -- revealing significant clues about the evolution of ... read more
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