The discovery of a 193-million-year-old nest containing more than 100 dinosaur eggs is increasing understanding of the early species of dinosaurs in the Perhentians. The discovery includes dinosaur eggs and juveniles and adults of a dinosaur called Mussaurus patagonicus found in Patagonia, Argentina, with a collection of described skeletons.
Dino is the ancestor of long-necked herbivores also called sauropods, such as Brachiosaurus. Most chicken-sized dinosaur eggs were discovered in groups of eight to 30, suggesting they were laid in nests as part of a common breeding ground.
Scientists have found Mussaurus skeletons of similar size and age buried together. Combined, they also provide evidence that dinosaurs lived in herds. Scientists say that I went to this site with the aim of finding a good dinosaur skeleton. We came back with 80 skeletons and more than 100 eggs, some of which have preserved embryos.
Prior to this discovery, researchers had thought that pastoralism was limited to dinosaurs that arrived much later in the Jurassic and early Cretaceous periods. This is because the earliest fossil evidence of sauropod herds only dates back 150 million years. However, this nesting ground pushes back more than 40 million years. The authors of the study said this is the earliest known evidence of social groups among dinosaurs.
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X-rays offer a peek into fossilized dinosaur eggs
Argentinian paleontologists discovered the first Mussaurus skeletons at this Patagonian site in the late 1970s. The dinosaurs that scientists found were not more than 6 inches long. The scientists were unaware that they had exposed the newborns, and due to the small size of the skeletons, scientists named the creatures “mouse lizards”.
Pol decided to re-explore the area starting in 2002, and by 2013, he had helped find the first adult Mussaurus fossils there. What he discovered from those bones were full-grown versions of these “mouse lizards” in size. Were close to the modern hippo. They grew to a weight of about 1.5 tons, reaching a length of 26 feet from nose to tip of tail. But babies can fit comfortably in the palm of a human hand.
Since then, Pol’s team has also uncovered and further studied the nesting grounds, which cover a half-square-mile radius.
In 2017, Pol took 30 eggs to a lab in France, and his group then used X-ray techniques to confirm the species of the embryos without breaking them open. By analyzing the size and type of bones in the nesting grounds, the researchers determined that the animals were buried near counterparts of a similar age. Some groups contained juveniles less than a year old, others contained individuals that were slightly older but were not yet fully grown, and finally, there were adults that died singly or in pairs.
The researchers also noted that this type of age segregation gives an important clue to herds: while juveniles lived with others their own age, adults hunted for food and protected the community. Another strong sign of herd behavior is a nesting ground: Mussaurus lived there as a community, and they laid eggs in a common area.
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