If you think of a sparrow sitting in its small nest and tiny eggs, you’d say it’s adorable. But what about a giant dinosaur, big as a rhino, who’s ready to sit on its eggs. That sounds more like it would turn them into an omelet!
A new study shows otherwise. Dinosaurs had a technique to lay their eggs around themselves and not squash them. They put their eggs around them, in a ring. The research on this discovery has been published today in the journal Biology Letters, showing us how early the nesting behaviors started.
The coauthor of the study and paleontologist Darla Zelenitsky of the University of Calgary (Canada), said:
“Most likely this behavior of sitting on the nest evolved first in dinosaurs.”
How Not to Crush The Babies
Zelenitsky and her team looked at 40 nests built by a birdlike dinosaur called oviraptorosaurs, which lived over 65 million years ago. These ancient ‘birds’ varied in size: from a few pounds to a whopping 4,000 pounds. Imagine that the largest ones were the size of a rhino, so the nests were according to size – from a foot up to 10 feet!
In smaller dinosaurs, their nests were small, and the eggs were all clustered, having no space in the center. But the bigger nests showed more space in the middle, and the eggs were elaborately placed on the edge:
“The photos don’t do these clutches of eggs justice. They’re two to three layers of eggs, and they’re stacked in a spiral that inclines up toward the center of the nest,” said Zelenitsky.
Zelenitsky and her team don’t know yet why dinosaurs sat on their eggs. She explains that we know why birds do it today – to heat the eggs, but there is no information on why the dinosaurs did it: “we don’t know if that was the case with oviraptorosaurs—we don’t know if to provide shelter or protection, or for warmth.”
Another Amazing Discovery – Protecting the Eggs
In April, a different team discovered a dinosaur in a nest in the Gobi Desert. They were looking at a perfectly preserved specimen that was sitting inside a nest with the eggs arranged around it.
Paleobiologist Greg Erickson of Florida State University in Tallahassee explained why it was a rare find. The dinosaur could have been the mother or the father, and it died with its wing-like arms covering the 12 eggs. The same behavior can be seen in today’s birds, protecting their eggs from danger.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.