Mar
17
2005

A new fossil fuels the theory that some dinosaurs cared for their young. It shows an adult Psittacosaurus (SIT-ta-co-SORE-us) with 34 juveniles.

Want to learn more about the latest in dinosaur research? Scientists in Montana have found a Tyrannosaurus Rex femur bone with preserved fleshy tissue inside.

Read about the T-Rex find

See pictures of the T-Rex tissue

Previous fossils had given indirect evidence of dinosaur parenting. One site preserved Allosaurus teeth of different ages. Another revealed baby Maiasaura still in their nests. But this is the first fossil to preserve an adult dinosaur together with young. Read the news release.

Fossil features point to prehistoric parenting

These complete skeletons are preserved with their legs tucked beneath them and their heads raised. This suggests that the animals were buried alive as a group, not swept together after death. The juveniles, one-quarter the size of the adult, are bigger than hatchlings. Their fully-hardened bones indicate the adults tended the young for some time as they matured. Birds and crocodilians, which share a common ancestor with dinosaurs, also care for their offspring. The fossil suggests that parenting behavior evolved just once for this whole group of animals, rather than separately.

Dino daycare?

Some scientists think it's unlikely all 34 juveniles had the same parents. It would be tough for one or two adults to feed so many young. They believe this fossil represents a crèche. Crèche-ing is a form of parenting where a few adults tend offspring from several families while the other adults collect food. We see crèche-ing today in penguins and giraffes, among other animals.

Most of what scientists believe about dinosaur behavior is based on observation of modern animals. Some scientists look at this fossil and see a crèche. But the bones could lend themselves to other interpretations as well. Can you think of any? What interests you about dinosaurs? What kinds of stories would you like to see?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Katie Schmit's picture
Katie Schmit says:

I have always been so amazed by how big they are. They are as big as my head.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n

posted on Sun, 06/05/2005 - 3:33pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think it's cool that our daycares have very ancient ancestors.

posted on Mon, 03/21/2005 - 3:27pm
cassie's picture
cassie says:

I totally agree with your theory. It is a great idea. U R AWESOME!!!!

posted on Sat, 03/26/2005 - 5:34pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I THINK THAT IT IS REALLY COOL THAT THEY DO THAT

posted on Tue, 06/28/2005 - 1:40pm
Claudia's picture
Claudia says:

I think that the dinosaur exhibit was cool but it was more on bones than dinosaurs.

posted on Mon, 03/21/2005 - 12:25pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I AGREE

posted on Mon, 03/21/2005 - 4:17pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Hi, Claudia.

What do you mean when you say that the exhibit was more about bones than about dinosaurs? Right now, scientists know almost everything they know about dinosaurs, including behavior, from bones (along with coprolites, which are fossilized poop, skin prints, and some tracks and traces).

By the way, a group of scientists digging in Montana's Hell Creek Formation recently found a T. rex bone that may still contain some soft tissue-a very rare find.

What else would you like to have seen? Was there something you wanted to know but didn't learn?

Tell us, so we can make our exhibits better!

posted on Fri, 03/25/2005 - 12:39pm
LG's picture
LG says:

WHAT IF IT WAS THERE ACTUALLY EATING ITS OWN YOUNGS INSTEAD OF CARING FOR THEM, WAS IT A CARNIVORE OR OMNIVORE? o_( *-* )_o

posted on Mon, 03/21/2005 - 5:14pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Hi, LG.

Its teeth suggest that Psittacosaurus was an herbivore (a plant eater), not a carnivore (a meat-eater) or an omnivore (eats both plants and meat). And the fossil record so far suggests that all of its close relatives were herbivores, too.

Also, if the big dinosaur were eating the little ones, the bones should show some evidence of that-teethmarks, etc. They don't.

So it doesn't seem likely that the adult Psittacosaurus was eating the young ones.

But good thinking! A paleontologist has to consider all the possibilities like this when interpreting a find.

posted on Tue, 03/22/2005 - 3:42pm
Milton's picture
Milton says:

i think this is a really neat place.

posted on Tue, 03/22/2005 - 2:41pm
Ashley's picture
Ashley says:

That's pretty cool that the animals cared for their young with the same degree of care that we do today.

posted on Tue, 03/22/2005 - 3:31pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

they would die if they didn't take care of their young!

posted on Sat, 06/04/2005 - 12:56pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Many animals do not care for their young. Bugs and insects, fish and frogs, lizards, snakes and turtles -- most species in these groups simply lay their eggs and leave. The babies have to fend for themselves from the minute they hatch. Since dinosaurs are reptiles, scientists long assumed that dinos didn't care for their eggs. Only in the last 20 years or so have we discovered enough dinosaur eggs, nests and babies to tell that at least some species did indeed care for their young.

posted on Sun, 06/05/2005 - 1:00pm
Can't tell.'s picture
Can't tell. says:

This page has really helped me learn something new to me!

posted on Wed, 03/23/2005 - 2:51pm
Amy's picture
Amy says:

This exicibit (or however u spell that )is amazing .i love to learn about these animals that lived millons of years ago.They r something that I'm glad that so many scientists research!!

posted on Wed, 03/23/2005 - 3:20pm
Chaos's picture
Chaos says:

I think dinosars are ok but should not be dug up for exibits

posted on Thu, 03/24/2005 - 11:23am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Hi, Chaos.

I'm glad you posted your opinion, but I'd like to hear more. Make your case! Tell us why you don't think dinosaurs should be on display in museums.

posted on Fri, 03/25/2005 - 12:32pm
Angie's picture
Angie says:

Well, I think that we should dig up dinosars! Why? Because we need and want to know what life was like back then! we need/want to know how we came to be!

from,
Angie

posted on Fri, 04/01/2005 - 5:14pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Well I think your right Angie because it's a really important part of our history. Ya feel me!

posted on Wed, 04/27/2005 - 4:22pm
Shannon's picture
Shannon says:

If dinosaurs were not dug up, we would not know what they looked like or what they ate. They do no good under ground, but when we dig them up, they will not be destroyed, and we learn a lot more about them!

posted on Mon, 04/18/2005 - 10:56am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I believe that all bones are sacred and should be left alone.\r\n

posted on Thu, 04/28/2005 - 12:17pm
interested student!'s picture
interested student! says:

Well i agree that bones from a living creature ought to be dealt with in a very delicate manner; however I feel it is very important to learn from history. Dinosaurs once ruled the earth, yes it was over 225 million years ago, way back when we homo sapiens were not in existence, but they became extinct!...There are many theories about this
one being the meteor rock hitting the earth changing the temperatures, ect.. but if we never had paleontologists going on exhibtions discovering fossils, then we would never know how these dinosaurs vanished! And i for one want to know exactly how those dinosaurs did become extinct ...just to make sure it never happens to us..or ways in which we can prevent this from happening to our species!

posted on Sat, 10/13/2007 - 4:07pm
No one in Paricular's picture
No one in Paricular says:

I've always LOVED dinosaur exhibits, but I think you should add more hands-on things. Show us, don't tell us! Kids get more interested in things when they figure them for themselves. Have some experiments or things like the dinosaur digs in the Chinasaurs exhibit! Those are fun! All in all though, the exhibit is great!

posted on Fri, 03/25/2005 - 9:24pm
cody's picture
cody says:

I like seeing the dinasaurs. I am curious about whether the dinasaurs really lived 145 million years ago.

posted on Sat, 04/09/2005 - 12:53pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

The first dinosaurs appeared over 200 million years ago--maybe more!

We know dinosaurs are real because we find their fossilized bones. (And footprints. And eggshells. And feathers. And skin impressions. And sometimes even their poop!)

We know their age by studying the rocks. Many rocks contain radioactive elements. Those are atoms that give off energy and change into another type of atom. Scientists who study atoms know how long it takes for them to change. So, if they find a fossil in a rock where there hasn't been much radioactive change, they know the rock is pretty young. If there's been a lot of change, they know the rock is old. And they can use the rate of change to measure how old it is.

posted on Mon, 04/11/2005 - 4:43pm
Kayla's picture
Kayla says:

One of the things I admired was baby dinosaurs because baby dinosaurs are very cute. But how would I know they were cute?

posted on Fri, 04/22/2005 - 2:48pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Believe it or not, there is such a thing! Scientists have noticed that animal babies which don't require a lot of attention from their parents -- things like fish and lizards -- tend to just look like miniature versions of the adult. On the other hand, animals that DO require a lot of parental care -- puppies, kittens, and human babies -- often have exaggerated features, like relatively bigger eyes and heads. Parents who respond positively to these features -- who think they are "cute" -- will give their babies more attention. The babies are more likely to survive, and pass the parents' genes on to future generations.

Does this apply to dinosaurs? We know from fossils that some dinosaurs probably did care for their babies in the nest, bringing them food and protecting them until the babies could fend for themselves. I'm not sure if the babies of these species had exaggerated features -- fossil baby dinos are rare -- but if they did, it would certainly fit the pattern.

Of course, what we think is cute might be very different from what a Tyrannosaurus thinks is cute! ;-)

posted on Mon, 04/25/2005 - 4:01pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Word comes from Germany that scientists have determined that baby dinosaurs were, indeed, "cute."

The dinosaurs, unnamed in the article, were large, two-legged meat-eaters that lived in Portugal about 150 million years ago. A study of unhatched babies showed that their heads and eyes were large for their tiny bodies -- just like baby humans, puppies, and other animals that are cared for by their parents.

So, dinosaurs were cute -- at least as babies.

posted on Wed, 06/01/2005 - 10:22am
kathi's picture
kathi says:

I like the exhibit, but I don't like that there are no experiments or labs (open).
Katharina

posted on Sat, 04/23/2005 - 1:02pm
Sigourney Sielaff's picture
Sigourney Sielaff says:

tell me how it feels to be a scientist.I just want to know how it feels to be smart.cause I am not(hysterical whining)

posted on Mon, 05/09/2005 - 10:42am
bryan kennedy's picture

Hey Sigourney,

Well, I really doubt that you aren't smart. I mean, you were inquisitive enough to ask a really good question. Here at the museum we think everyone can be a scientist in his or her own way. It involves asking questions, observing the world around you, and then trying to understand what those observations mean. A paleontologist might have a question like,

"I wonder if dinosaurs lived in groups, like some modern animals?"

Observing a find like this one might help her to come up with an answer to that question. By observing this fossil and many others, plus the behaviors of some living animals, she might come to a conclusion like,

"Yes, some dinosaurs probably did live in family-like groups."

But if another scientist came along and observed something different, then they might both have to rethink their conclusions. I hope this helps you know what it "feels like" to be a scientist.

Keep asking good questions, and have faith in intelligence.
-----------------------------
bryan kennedy
Science Buzz Site Admin

posted on Mon, 05/09/2005 - 11:59am
Lee Mintz's picture
Lee Mintz says:

I find it amazing that any creature that lived at about that time could know the benefits of living in groups. For example the added protection from predators exhibited in many current day life forms such as the buffalo or zebra. Was it sheer knowledge that gave these prehistoric beings that idea? Or was it perhaps instinct working to its fullest? \r\n\r\nWhat do you think?\r\n\r\nLee Mintz

posted on Tue, 05/17/2005 - 11:14am
Kristi Curry Rogers's picture
Kristi Curry Rogers says:

Hi Lee,
Great question - the truth is, that many animals live in groups, including things as diverse as bees, the herding animals that you mentioned, people, and yes -- dinosaurs!! There are lots of good reasons to live in groups, and it probably is instinctual - living in groups imparts lots of perks, including things like protection, food, and nurturing. We don't have tons of evidence for lots of dinosaurs living in groups (for example, we don't really know if Velociraptor hunted in packs or not), but for a few dinos, we know for sure that they traveled in groups (lots of horned and duckbilled dinos, and the tank-like ankylosaurs have been found in groups; the long-necked dinosaurs have left tracks that indicate group behavior). I think some of the coolest evidence out there for dino groups actually occurs in fossils like this one - dinosaur nests have been found from a number of dinosaurs (especially carnivores), with a parent dino actually brooding a nest of eggs! There are 7 specimens in the world like this, and that's some of the best info about how dinosaurs cared for their young.

Thanks for the question,

Kristi Curry Rogers, Ph. D.
Curator of Paleontology
Science Museum of Minnesota

posted on Wed, 05/18/2005 - 3:06pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Do you think the larger adult just happened to be swepted by and ended up there, next to the babies?

posted on Sun, 05/22/2005 - 4:22pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

One of the interesting things about this fossil is that the bones are preserved with the animals' heads up and their legs tucked beneath them. If they had just been swept together after death, the bones would be all jumbled up and would not all have similar positions.

(You can see an example of a bone bed where the bones HAVE all been swept together in the Dinosaurs and Fossils Gallery on Level 3.)

posted on Mon, 05/23/2005 - 4:34pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

do they have games on this website :) !

posted on Fri, 06/10/2005 - 6:19pm
bryan kennedy's picture

You might be surprised to hear that we should have some games on this site soon. We are currently working on some games that you can play here on the website and at the museum. These games will help you to learn about something like dinosaurs but will also be quite fun to play. For now you might check out this fun website on Energy from the Science Museum in London. Their site is chock-full of fun science games.
-----------------------------
bryan kennedy
Science Buzz Site Admin

posted on Fri, 06/10/2005 - 7:09pm
jd's picture
jd says:

I think that that is really interesting. That is really cool!

posted on Fri, 06/17/2005 - 2:39pm
Suzuka's picture
Suzuka says:

Where are some good places to go to study paleontology, and how can I find out more about a fossil my dad found on his uncle's farm, which we believe to be a Cephalopod? ^.^

~Suzuka

posted on Mon, 06/20/2005 - 12:05pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Suzuka,

I don't know how old you are or where you live, but here are a few suggestions. There are some cephalopods on display in our Dinosaurs and Fossils Gallery, and the staff and volunteers are always happy to help you find more information. The Science Museum also offers a class for kids called "Fossil Finding for Families"; the class covers Ordovician fossils, including cephalopods. You could also bring your fossil to the Collector's Corner in the Science Museum's Collections Gallery, where one of our volunteers or paleontologists could identify it for you.

If you want to know more about what was going on in Minnesota when cephalopods were alive, you should check out the display in the Mississippi River Gallery, where, coincidentally, you can see more cephalopod fossils.

Hope that helps? Write back if you have more questions or need more suggestions.

posted on Tue, 06/21/2005 - 10:04am
best567's picture
best567 says:

yes, Im agree

posted on Sun, 07/01/2007 - 10:37am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Paleontologists published in Thursday's issue of Science suggest that the fossilized remains of dinosaurs with large clutches of eggs may, in at least some cases, be the bones of male dinosaurs instead of female ones.

posted on Fri, 12/19/2008 - 12:20pm

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