Oldest dinosaur embryos ever found
A group of American paleontologists has identified the oldest dinosaur embryos discovered so far. Preserved almost intact inside eggs found in 1976 in South Africa, they belong to a species that lived 190 million years ago, and which was the ancestor of the giant four-legged, long-necked prosauropods, such as Diplodocus.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, these are embryos of a species of herbivore called Massospondylus. The researchers, led by Professor Robert Reisz, of the University of Toronto Mississauga, used the fossil fetuses to reconstruct babies of these dinosaurs and determine what their anatomy was like when they roamed the Earth. And they concluded that, unlike adult individuals, Massospondylus embryos had long forelimbs, disproportionately large heads, and quadruped locomotion.
In addition, “as in the human species, Massospondylus babies began to walk on four limbs, until they were able to walk on two legs,” Reisz explained. If we take into account that, in addition, they were born without teeth, paleontologists suspect that these dinosaurs, which were approximately 20 centimetres long at birth, needed the attention of their parents until their necks and hind limbs were large enough.
The prosauropods are the first dinosaurs to diversify widely, becoming the most widespread group on Earth, so their biology is particularly interesting to understand “the dawn of the age of dinosaurs.”
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