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:

Volcanic eruptions triggered dawn of the dinosaurs
Huge pulses of volcanic activity are likely to have played a key role in triggering the end Triassic mass extinction, which set the scene for the rise and age of the dinosaurs, new Oxford University research has found.
Dinosaurs: Juvenile, adult or senior?
How old were the oldest dinosaurs? This question remains largely unanswered.
How the darkness and the cold killed the dinosaurs
66 million years ago, the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs started the ascent of the mammals, ultimately resulting in humankind's reign on Earth.
These dinosaurs lost their teeth as they grew up
By comparing the fossilized remains of 13 ceratosaurian theropod dinosaurs known as Limusaurus inextricabilis collected from the Upper Jurassic Shishugou Formation of northwestern China, researchers have been able to reconstruct the dinosaur's growth and development from a young hatchling of less than a year to the age of 10.
Dinosaurs' rise was 'more gradual,' new fossil evidence suggests
Researchers have discovered two small dinosaurs together with a lagerpetid, a group of animals that are recognized as precursors of dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs of a feather flock and die together?
In the paleontology popularity contest, studying the social life of dinosaurs is on the rise.
Unique skin impressions of the last dinosaurs discovered in Barcelona
Researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in collaboration with the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont, have discovered in Vallcebre an impression fossil with the surface of the skin of a dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous, a period right before their extinction.
What dinosaurs' color patterns say about their lives
After reconstructing the color patterns of a well-preserved dinosaur from China, researchers have found that the long-lost species called Psittacosaurus was light on its underside and darker on top.
The success of the plant-eating dinosaurs
Plant-eating dinosaurs had several bursts of evolution, and these were all kicked off by innovations in their teeth and jaws, new research has found.
Soot may have killed off the dinosaurs and ammonites
A new hypothesis on the extinction of dinosaurs and ammonites at the end of the Cretaceous Period has been proposed by a research team from Tohoku University and the Japan Meteorological Agency's Meteorological Research Institute.

Related Dinosaurs Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...