November 21, 2011
Nest Of Dinosaurs Discovered In Mongolia
Archaeologists have discovered a nest containing 15 fossilized juvenile Protoceratops andrewsi dinosaurs in Mongolia.
The discovery is the first nest of this genus ever found and the first indication that Protoceratops juveniles remained in the nest for an extended period.David Fastovsky, URI professor of geosciences with the University of Rhode Island, said the nest was 2.3 feet in diameter and his team discovered it in the Djadochta Formation at Tugrikinshire, Mongolia.
"Finding juveniles at a nest is a relatively uncommon occurrence, and I cannot think of another dinosaur specimen that preserves 15 juveniles at its nest in this way," he said in a press release.
The team found that all 15 dinosaurs were about the same size and had achieved the same state of growth and development.
They said that the discovery indicates that the juvenile dinosaurs remained in the nest through the early stages of postnatal development and were cared for by their parents.
"I suspect that the preserved animals were rapidly buried by the shifting, accumulating sands that must have constituted the bulk of sedimentation in this setting," Fastovsky wrote. "Death likely occurred during a desert sandstorm. My guess is that the initial and present-day dryness contributed significantly to the superb preservation, not just of Protoceratops, but of all the fossils from this unit."
Protoceratops were herbivores that lived in a sand sea like the Sahara Desert. Scientists believe they had significant parental care on a relatively large number of offspring.
"Juvenile Protoceratops mortality may have been rather high, not only from predation but from a potentially stressful environment, and large clutches may have been a way of ensuring survival of the animals in that setting," Fastovsky said. "Nonetheless, if preservation is any indicator of abundance in life, then during the time represented by the Djadochta Formation, Protoceratops were a very common feature of Mongolian Late Cretaceous desert landscapes."
The findings were reported in the most recent issue of the Journal of Paleontology.
Image Caption: This fossilized nest of juvenile Protoceratops andrewsi dinosaurs is the first nest discovered for this genus and sheds light on parental care and juvenile behavior in this species. Credit: Dr. Kh. Tsogtbaatar
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