Nav: Home

Chemical analysis demonstrates communal nesting in dinosaurs

October 28, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (Oct., 2016) - The reproductive behaviors of birds are some of their most conspicuous and endearing qualities. From the colorful mating display of some birds, like peacocks, to the building of nests by nearly all birds, these are the characters we use to define birds and make them popular study subjects. One peculiar aspect of some birds is communal nesting, where multiple breeding pairs lay eggs in the same nest. This most famously occurs in ostriches, who can have several females lay their eggs in one nest that is tended by one dominant female.

The reasons why this behavior may have evolved are unclear, especially when it's known that the females who share a nest are often unrelated. Knowing when this behavior evolved may help elucidate its evolutionary history. Now, thanks to research by Tzu-Ruei Yang and his colleagues, we know this behavior may have its origins back in the ancestors of birds, dinosaurs.

Dr. Yang, of the Universita?t Bonn in Germany, and his colleagues, Jasmina Wiemann and Beate Spiering also of Universita?t Bonn, Anneke Van Heteren of the Zoologische Staatssammlung Mu?nchen in Germany, and Chun-Jung Chen of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Taiwan, used the chemical composition of the fossil eggs shells in one nest to determine if they were laid by different mothers. This had been proposed before, but wasn't backed by multiple lines of evidence. "Dinosaur behaviors that are unlikely to be preserved in fossilization could be elucidated by chemical analysis more unambiguously", said Yang.

The team used a peculiarity of egg laying physiology: birds of different ages lay eggs with different phosphorous content in their shells. Also, different birds lay eggs of different shapes. It turns out that the same was true for dinosaurs. So by examining the eggs from one nest, they could determine if they were laid by different mothers, and they were. The nests that were examined were of oviraptorid dinosaurs, two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs (theropods) closely related to the group that evolved into modern birds. Said Dr. van Heteren, "This research shows how important interdisciplinary collaborations are to unveal the truth about the past."
-end-
About the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Founded in 1940 by thirty-four paleontologists, the Society now has more than 2,300 members representing professionals, students, artists, preparators, and others interested in VP. It is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, with the object of advancing the science of vertebrate paleontology.

Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (JVP) is the leading journal of professional vertebrate paleontology and the flagship publication of the Society. It was founded in 1980 by Dr. Jiri Zidek and publishes contributions on all aspects of vertebrate paleontology.

AUTHOR CONTACT INFORMATION

Tzu-Ruei Yang Universität Bonn Bonn, Germany lereage@gmail.com

Jasmina Wiemann
Yale University
jasmina.wiemann@hotmail.com

Dr. Anneke van Heteren
Curator in Zoologische Staatssammlung
München, Germany
vanheteren@zsm.mwn.de

Dr. Chun-Jung Chen
Curator in National Museum of Natural Sciences
Taichung, Taiwan
cjchen618@mail.nmns.edu.tw

Dr. Beate Spiering
Steinmann-Institut für Geologie, Mineralogie, Paläontologie
Universität Bonn
Bonn, Germany
b.spiering@uni-bonn.de

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Related Dinosaurs Articles:

Jurassic dinosaurs trotted between Africa and Europe
Dinosaur footprints found in several European countries, very similar to others in Morocco, suggest that they could have been dispersed between the two continents by land masses separated by a shallow sea more than 145 million years ago.
In the shadow of the dinosaurs
Research published this Wednesday in Scientific Reports describes Clevosaurus hadroprodon, a new reptile species from Rio Grande do Sul state in southern Brazil.
When the dinosaurs died, lichens thrived
When the asteroid hit, dinosaurs weren't the only ones that suffered.
Dinosaurs were thriving before asteroid strike that wiped them out
Dinosaurs were unaffected by long-term climate changes and flourished before their sudden demise by asteroid strike.
Did volcanoes kill the dinosaurs? New evidence points to 'maybe.'
Princeton geoscientists Blair Schoene and Gerta Keller led an international team of researchers who have assembled the first high-resolution timeline for the massive eruptions in India's Deccan Traps, determining that the largest eruption pulse occurred less than 100,000 years before the mass extinction that killed the (non-avian) dinosaurs.
Want to learn about dinosaurs? Pick up some Louisiana roadkill
Scientists are able to learn about an animal's ecosystem by studying the chemical makeup of its body, whether the animal died recently or millions of years ago.
The idiosyncratic mammalian diversification after extinction of the dinosaurs
Researchers state that many mammals lineages coexisted with the dinosaurs before the end-Cretaceous mass extinction.
How did alvarezsaurian dinosaurs evolve monodactyl hand?
An international research team led by XU Xing from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology announced the discovery of two new Chinese dinosaurs: Bannykus and Xiyunykus, in the journal Current Biology, which shed light on how alvarezsaurian dinosaurs reduced and lost their fingers.
Those fragrances you enjoy? Dinosaurs liked them first
The compounds behind the perfumes and colognes you enjoy have been eliciting olfactory excitement since dinosaurs walked the Earth amid the first appearance of flowering plants, new research reveals.
What the asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs meant for birds
Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid struck the earth and wiped out non-avian dinosaurs.
More Dinosaurs News and Dinosaurs Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.