Have you ever wondered how the massive dinosaurs were able to sit on and hatch their eggs without crushing them?
The answer to that question starts with "carefully," researchers say, supported by a study that dives into deeper detail on dinosaur parenting when the ancient creatures still roamed the Earth.
How Do Dinosaurs Hatch Their Eggs?
Understanding their parenting instincts have been one of the biggest dinosaur mysteries, particularly because of the lack of fossils that will provide information regarding the behavior. An international team of researchers from North America and Asia, however, have apparently figured things out.
For the first time, scientists have outlined the incubating behavior of oviraptorosaurs, which is a group of bipedal feathered dinosaurs under the classification of theropods. They believe that the largest of these dinosaurs arranged their eggs in a circular pattern, leaving a gap at the center of the nest.
The gap is the place that bears the weight of the parent. This allows the dinosaur to provide body heat and protection to the eggs, without smashing them underneath its massive size.
The researchers came to those findings by studying 40 fossils of nests that were built by oviraptorosaurs, which had weights that ranged from a few pounds to around 4,000 pounds. The length of the nests, meanwhile, ranged from about a foot to 10 feet.
"Oviraptorosaurs seem to have been very picky about how their eggs were arranged in the nest," said Darla Zelenitsky, a coauthor of the study and an assistant professor of paleontology from the University of Calgary.
Very few theropods, however, built nests, which is why the brooding behavior shown by the oviraptorosaurs is important. The incubation behavior displayed by birds, with adults sitting inside their nest and possibly brooding, is proposed to have evolved from thermopod dinosaurs.
However, no birds alive today do the same thing. Nearly all modern bird species sit right on top of their eggs, though it should be noted that even the largest birds are generally smaller compared to oviraptorosaurs.
Many Dinosaur Mysteries Remain
While researchers have a better idea on dinosaur eggs hatching, there remain many mysteries surrounding the ancient creatures.
It is widely accepted that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a massive asteroid crash, but the specific details surrounding the world-changing event remain unclear. According to the latest theory, toxic flowers helped wipe out the dinosaur population, with the herbivores already declining due to eating the toxic plants and the carnivores shrinking in numbers when the asteroid hit.
Unfortunately, all that we have left of the dinosaurs are their fossils, such as the rare dinosaur skeleton that was put on display in the Rhinegeist Brewery in Cincinnati. These fossils are the only means for scientists to study dinosaurs, so it is probably not a good idea to throw them into lakes.