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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
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Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Caring for Dinosaur Babies
8 September 2004 (All day)
It's still a mystery what killed them. But whether it was toxic gases or a flooded burrow, a group of fossils shows that an adult dinosaur died together with 34 hatchlings. The find offers new evidence about how dinosaurs may have looked after their young charges.
Paleontologists have found powerful evidence before that dinosaurs protected their nests. Consider, for example, the skeleton of a carnivorous Oviraptor preserved with its arms stretched over its eggs. They've also dug up signs that juveniles hung out with adults. But although bones of immature duck-billed dinosaurs have been uncovered in nests, hatchlings hadn't been found in the company of adults.
The new specimen, described in this week's issue of Nature, contains the partial skeleton of an adult Psittacosaurus, a herbivorous dinosaur with a parrotlike beak. Surrounding it are 34 young, each between 3 and 3.4 centimeters long. Whereas most fossils of dinosaurs show the animals lying on their sides as if dead, these were found flat on their bellies with their heads slightly raised. "It almost seems like they were alive when buried," says paleontologist David Varricchio of Montana State University, Bozeman. One possibility is that volcanic gases or ash killed the animals; the part of China where the fossils were found, Liaoning Province, saw frequent eruptions during the Early Cretaceous period 120 million years ago.In any case, Varricchio, Jinyuan Liu of the Dalian Natural History Museum in China, and their colleagues are more interested in what the fossils say about the Psittacosaurus's life. For example, this adult may have been protecting several broods, says David Weishampel, a paleontologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who notes that it's hard to imagine one female laying 34 eggs. The "amazing" new fossil, he says, "tells a story of parental care that is absolutely clear."
Dalian Natural History Museum