Juvenile dinosaurs from South Africa – an insight into parental care in early dinosaurs — ASN Events

Juvenile dinosaurs from South Africa – an insight into parental care in early dinosaurs (#904)

François Durand 1
  1. University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, ACT, South Africa

South Africa has some of the oldest dinosaurs in the world.  Dinosaur nests with embryo containing eggs and juvenile dinosaurs have also been discovered in South Africa (Kitching, 1979; Durand, 2001; Reisz et al., 2010).  In this presentation the nesting behaviour of Massospondylus and parental care in Plateosauravus (Euskelosaurus) will be discussed. 

Massospondylus nests have been found in different horizons in late Triassic sedimentary deposits in South Africa with up to 34 eggs were found per clutch.  This discovery indicates nest fidelity and colonial nesting by prosauropods (Reisx et al., 2005).  The position and arrangement of the eggs indicate that they were manipulated into their position by the adult and that the eggs were not randomly deposited into a heap as in the case of a crocodile egg clutch.  On the other hand it is dubious that endothermy has developed to such a level in prosauropods that they would brood on the eggs as in the case of later theropod dinosaurs (Clark et al., 1999).

Thousands of fossils of Plateosauravus were found in a flood plain deposit typical of a flash flood caused by torrential rains and rivers breaking their banks.  The number and size ranges of the fossils of Plateosauravus suggest that very young juveniles of different sizes were accompanied by adults.  The lack of intermediate sizes would suggest that subadult animals were excluded from the rearing and foraging areas (Durand, 2001). 

The reproductive behaviour of prosauropod dinosaurs was similar to that of crocodiles and ground nesting birds showing that there is more evidence to support precocious behaviour amongst hatchling prosauropod dinosaurs than previous believed.

  1. Clark, J.M.; Norell, M. & Chiappe, L.M. 1999. "An oviraptorid skeleton from the late Cretaceous of Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia, preserved in an avianlike brooding position over an oviraptorid nest." American Museum Novitates 3265: 1–36.
  2. Durand, J.F. 2001. The oldest juvenile dinosaurs from Africa. African Earth Sciences 33:597–603.
  3. Kitching, J.W., 1979. Preliminary report on a clutch of six dinosaurian eggs from the Upper Triassic Elliot Formation, northern Orange Free State. Palaeontologia Africana 22: 41–45.
  4. Reisz, R.R.; Scott, D.; Sues, H-D.; Evans, D.C. & Raath, M.A. (2005). "Embryos of an Early Jurassic prosauropod dinosaur and their evolutionary significance". Science 309(5735): 761–764.
  5. Reisz, R.R.; Evans, D.C.; Sues H-D & Scott, D. 2010. Embryonic Skeletal Anatomy of the Sauropodomorph Dinosaur Massospondylus from the Lower Jurassic of South Africa. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30(6): 1653-1665.