A Moment of Science

Did Dinosaurs Parent?

Did dinosaurs take an interest in parenting? Find out on this Moment of Science.

If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time wondering if dinosaurs exhibited parenting behavior. A recent fossil find in China seems to support the idea that some species of dinosaurs did parent their offspring.

This particular fossil was an adult skeleton of a dinosaur known as Psittacosaurus, surrounded by thirty-four juvenile skeletons. The adults of this plant-eating species are about the same size as a medium dog.

All the dinosaurs are upright, with their legs tucked beneath them, in a way that suggests that they were somehow buried alive. The lifelike postures, the good condition of the bones, and the fact the skulls and the skeletons in the fossil don’t overlap also indicate that it’s unlikely that the juvenile skeletons were transported or scavenged. And the fact that the juvenile bones are well formed shows that the young dinosaurs hadn’t just hatched.

If we look at the descendants of this species of dinosaur–birds and crocodiles– they nest and parent their young. However, they could have picked that up sometime during the course of evolution. It’s too early to say for certain whether dinosaurs parented or not. It would help if scientists found other similar groupings of dinosaurs in other locations.

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