Fossils of titanosaurs reveal that the long-necked dinosaurs may have suffered from harsh and lonely childhood, a new study has found.
Through fossil investigation, researchers found that Rapetosaurus krausei (R. krausei), a type of titanosaur, was born with an adult-like body size, suggesting that the species lived more independently than others.
While it may sound like the animals had a good foundation to live long lives and survive through daily challenges, that was not the case. In fact, analysis showed that they died young – about 39 to 77 days after birth due to starvation during a drought.
Why these dinosaurs may have experienced a harsh, lonely childhood is a ringing question that emerged following the release of the study results.
The body structure of the species gives the impression that they looked after themselves, foraged independently and rarely depended on their parents to survive. This is in contrast with other species that have more nurturing parents.
Shortly after R. krausei had been born, they would look for plants and other vegetation to feed on instead of wait for their parents to do that for them. This goes to show that parenthood may have been a factor for the unconvetional childhood of the dinosaurs.
"For sauropods, it doesn't appear that they were very good parents – at least after their babies hatched," says study author Kristina Curry Rogers.
Independent babies such as the R. krausei are called precocial as they were born in an advanced state and are capable of being independent at once. The opposite of precocial is altricial, which is used to describe offsprings that have different body dimensions from adults and require thorough guidance and protection from their parents.
The study is the first proof for a genuine precocial dinosaur.
Other examples of modern-day precocial species include snakes, lizards, reptiles, birds and wildebeest.
While it may sound disappointing and heart-piercing, leaving offsprings to live independently is not at all bad. In fact, it may be an evolutionary strategy that may also serve the species a good purpose.
Curry Rogers explained that precocial babies already have the ability to protect themselves against predators at such a young age. Aside from that, there are slimmer chances for the entire group to be extinguished all at once due to predation.
The study was published in the journal Science on April 22.