Dinosaur quiverfull


Dinosaur picture: a nest full of baby dinosaur fossils

 What an amazing find. That’s fifteen juvenile dinosaurs in one nest. They’re thought to be about a year old. Fifteen juveniles in one nest! I was already puzzling about that before I read the text – which confirms that it’s puzzling.

Scientists  once believed that dinosaurs generally followed a crocodile-like model  of child care—they would lay their eggs and leave their nests for good.  This idea was replaced by the view that dinosaurs raised their  young for a time after hatching, the way many birds do.

Now,  Fastovsky explained, people understand that the ancient reptiles had  parenting styles unlike those of any animals alive today.

Fifteen  babies, as seen in the newfound fossil nest, is an unusually large  number of offspring for any animal to nurture at once, Fastovsky said.  Modern animals tend to have a few young, in which they invest heavily,  like humans, or they have a “zillion babies” and show no parental care,  like mosquitoes.

“So these [dinosaurs] seem to be something else.”

Kind of worst of both worlds – lots of kids, intensively raised. But how fascinating.

How did they all die at once? I was thinking maybe a blast of toxic gas from somewhere, such as a volcano. But –

As seen above, all of the young Protoceratops in the newfound nest are facing the same direction, giving scientists a clue to how they died.

“Our  scenario is that these things were pointed away from the wind as it was  blowing during a sand storm, and then they were catastrophically buried  by an encroaching dune,” Fastovsky said.

“I  think in this particular case, it really was dramatic—this fossil  really records the last, bug-eyed, terrified minutes of their little  lives.”

Like Herculaneum.

I love amazing finds.




  1. KG says

    Ostriches and emus brood clutches of similar size; in neither case do all the eggs necessarily have the same pair as parents. I’d guess they are the best modern point of comparison.

  2. says

    Should we assume that all of the fifteen juveniles were born of the same mother? Perhaps two or more mothers (or pairs) were collectively raising young? The idea of cooperative brood rearing is an intriguing one.

  3. says

    Interesting! But emus and ostriches mature a lot faster…being all in the nest after a year is part of what seems so surprising.

    I’m sure we should assume nothing. Any possibility is intriguing…well, apart from “god diddit.”

  4. says

    I’d always thought that different dinosaur species must have employed a range of reproductive strategies, considering how diverse their lifestyles were and how long they’d been around for.

  5. Rrr says

    If goddidit to those poor little innocent dinochicks, all I can say is DoublePlusUnNice, and I should prefer to have as little as possible to do with all that noise. So there.

  6. azportsider says

    I’m left wondering what supposedly herbivorous dinos might have been doing in such a place that an ‘encroaching dune’ evidently caused their demise. What did they eat?

  7. says

    Well the dune of course is a guess, at least according to the NatGeo piece. They were all facing in the same direction, so windstorm and sudden burial was best guess. I dunno: toxic gas could also fit that: they were all looking at an eruption, and then the odorless gas hit them. (I saw a thing on tv once about a little bowl in the landscape somewhere in Africa – it was full of skeletons, because there was a pool of carbon monoxide near the ground. Animals would go down into the bowl, and then when they lowered their heads to eat the corpses lying around – boom, the gas would knock them out before they were aware of it, and they’d die.)

  8. Greg Tingey says

    There were several different sorts of Dinosaur families/clades/genera, too.
    Some were “bird-like” (the Latin means “Bird-hipped” I think) others were not, and, of course there were non-dinosaurian reptiles as well (as there are now).
    The smaller of the bird-hipped types survived the end of the Cretaceous, and we now call them (ta-da!) Birds.

    So one might reasonably expect variations in “family” styles, as one sees in both birds and mammals today.

    The picture/Herculaneum one reminds me of an archeological/geoloical story (true) …
    Along the N bank of the Severn (near Goldcliff), preserved early Human (Mesolithic) footprints have been discovered. One set is obviously adults, but with (foot-size/step-size/distribution shows it..) an about 8-year old daughter – skipping around the adults, who were walking steadily.
    A 7000+ year-old day at the beach!

  9. says

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