The sound of little prehistoric feet tells the story of the world’s first nursery.
The imprint of those baby feet, made 190 million years ago, is providing clues to child-rearing practices among dinosaurs.
Scientists believe they have unearthed the oldest known nesting site, and with it a dinosaur nursery in the Golden Gate National Park in the Free State.
The study involved examining clutches of eggs – some still with embryos – and tiny dinosaur footprints.
Those doing the nesting were Massospondylus, a 6 metre-long dinosaur that was so common that scientists often refer to them as the sheep of their time.
It is the spoor, left on slabs of sedimentary rock, that suggests Massospondylus was a caring and doting parent.
“The footprints range in size. Some are so tiny, they had to have been hatchlings. Others are twice that size, but not the size of adults, says Dr Adam Yates, who was at the Bernard Price Institute (BPI) for Palae-ontological Research at Wits University at the time when the study was completed.
“It shows that hatchlings were doubling in size before moving away from the nesting area.”
This behaviour, the scientists believe, suggests that perhaps the parents were feeding their young.
“The babies were toothless, so they were probably being provisioned by their parents, maybe being fed regurgitated food,” says Yates. When they got to a certain size, they left the nest area.
The nests, believes Yates, were close to a water source. That same water source, a river perhaps, flooded the site and preserved it.
The paper, “Oldest known dinosaurian nesting site and reproductive biology of the Early Jurassic sauropodomorph Massospondylus” appears in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
At least 10 nests have been discovered in the Golden Gate National Park, and each had up to 34 eggs packed in tight clusters. The distribution of the nests suggest to the scientists that the dinosaurs returned to the site over periods of time, and that they might have assembled in groups, to lay their eggs. They also believe the fragile eggs were laid in carefully constructed nests.
“The eggs, embryos and nests come from the rocks of a nearly vertical road cut only 25 metres long,” Professor Robert Reisz, professor of biology at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, said.
“Even so, we found 10 nests, suggesting that there are a lot more nests in the cliff, still covered by tons of rock. We predict that many more nests will be eroded out in time as natural weathering processes continue.”
The nesting ground, say the authors, is 100 million years older than previous known sites.
“Even though the fossil record of dinosaurs is extensive, we actually have very little fossil information about their reproductive biology, particularly for early dinosaurs,” David Evans, a University of Toronto at Mississauga alumnus and a curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, said. - The Star
... Anon@12.09 - continued... 5) Why look back in time? You ask... Well, why do you? Why do you hark to the bible and it's stories? I'd like an answer... my answer why we study everything from the big bang and evolution is to understand where we come from and are going to; and how to better longterm viability of this precious earth and beyond. 6) Darwin never "turned against religion" due to his daughter's death; the evidence had already taken him down that inevitable path. 7) Hawkins is certainly not the "final word" on anything - nobody is. Further to that; Einstein and scientists who follow him already know that the Theory of Relativity is incomplete - they know where it's incomplete - and they are trying to resolve that. That said, relativity is currently the best model we have to understand the universe, it's workings, and how to predict and exploit it....
Anon@12.09 - more... continued... 8) You ask why I and others "ridicule religion" - My answer - to jolt people infected with a religious mindset and mind-virus out of their stupor. To expand on that: religion deserves scorn in the same way a devotion to father christmas or the tooth fairy would deserve derision in a rational world where other more pressing problems exist: It diverts resource, it divides populations with its "with-us, or against-us" mindset; it inspires delusions of superiority (apartheid is one sad example) and resulting justification to subjugate and kill ("honour" killings, 911, the ongoing middle east conflict, Ireland, the Crusades and the Inquisition spring immediately to mind). The list of penalties for all humanity and ecology when even a small group insist on clinging to a bronze age mindset in a mechanized, nuclear world, are too great a risk for rational people to face.... Did I leave anything out?
Anon@12.09 - thanx for your response - I hope IOL bother to list my response here as I've wasted a lot of time replying to you previously and it has never listed... You're asking dozens of questions - I have answers for all; here's a quick review: 1) No, I'm not insulted - you cannot insult me - I merely offer information which is consistent with the current knowledge published by the best minds and institutions in the world, 2) I and every scientist in the world is keen to be proven wrong - if it propels science. But proof must be backed up with data and proof. 3) A huge number of people well exceed my qualifications and intelligence; I try to learn from them all and regularly revise and distill what I know. 4) I discount the ratings or stories of Mohamed and all other prophets if they contradict known physics, are overturned by better informed philosophies, or simply make no sense. Crimes against humanity, ecology, or any species - regardless of who commits them are despicable and deserve sanction. Where those are committed in the name and pursuit of an ideology, by associating with that ideology you make yourself complicit - I am not aware of any atrocities perpetrated in the name of and with the sanction of the evolutionary scientist community; the nature of evolutionary science is not domination but reverence and awe for all life.
IOL - what the hell's wrong with you... I write responses and you couldn't be bothered to publish them. Pathetic.
I will try and ask the questions to Meme and Aquatic Ape with insulting there pride and hopefully they will answer my question. Are you open to any scientific facts or discovery that might prove evolution wrong. Are you open to any dialogue that not all religious people are stupid and might have academic qualifications that exceeds yours? Are you denying all the mistakes and crimes commited by evolution scientists when you are asking certain religions to accept blame? Can you get of the anti-Christian horse and accept that there are numerous people of other religions that also do not believe if evolution. Can you answer the question once and for all as to what the actual benefit are for today and tomorrow by dwelling in the past and even making the past older everytime we discover something else? Is Stephen Hawking the final say about what the universe is about? Then surely you should have no problem with millions of people believing in what Mohammed said? My apologies if you found me insulting but I am not throwing any biblical verse at you, I am trying to analyse, evaluate and find the actual worth of what is being said in this articles. My comment about the fossils was how come there is no mention of the layers of eggs found in the article as commented by the paleontology department. I agree with the fact that the media sensationalise and opinionate people, but I really want to understand what evolution benefit me. Some religion claim to better people, give them hope, sacrifice themselves. Why are the scientific community consistently ridicule religions and potraying scientific facts as the alternative? It does not make sense to me at all, except if they themselves was hurt by religion like Darwin when he lost his 10 year old daughter. Forgive them and move on
IOL - pray tell... why put up comments section and then not bother to list or severely edit well composed, non-inflammatory responses? We - the reading and commenting public - are you customers; we pay your bills by consuming your media and creating dialogue that draws other 'eyeballs' in; it is outrageous and absurd that you treat your keenest participants like children; it makes me think I'm dealing Telkom
Anon@1.56 - I have ansered (presume it you) your 01.07 questionstatement(?) but IOL slow to upload it. Answering your 1.56pm statement about the nursery found 20 years ago.... whta is your point? Does it in some way support, or (in your mind) detract fromt the facts?
Another Fact Meme this "nursery" was foudn nearly 20 years ago and it needed to be sent to Canada to a LAB for the eggs to be opened. This was confirmed this morning in an interview with the Paleo(Sorry my Ape brain) Department. This Canadian Paleo(he he he) then asked if he can come and play around in the dirt at Golden Gate and found layers upon layers of Dino Eggs. Now is that not awesome. Can we see it pleeeeeeaaaaaseee.
Aquatic Ape, wrote
Aah, ignorance is bliss. Evolution is not something you believe, it is a fact you can understand if you want. Even the Pope accepts evolution, he just doesn't have the intellect to fully accept it so he says it is his god's way of 'creating' species. Anonymous and SimpleOke, if you really want to understand how evolution works at the DNA, cellular and macro levels read "The Greatest Show On Earth" by Richard Dawkins. It is a clear and concise summary of all the EVIDENCE and how it works to evolve complex species. Knowledge is power, education is freedom from superstition.
Oh Meme...Meme You still have not answered the question that baffles us with you high and mighty intellect. Our poor normal people are just asking the same questions Galileo asked about the world being flat? That was the most popular science of the day. We want to believe Meme but since all we see and hear are textbooks and a scientific community that spurns anyone who questions and molds made from fibreglass. How is this not an expectation or your part to entice us to have blind faith is something. You have also not asked the question as to what does it contribute to broader human race except make a couple of academic and physics more pompous and hypocrite. We are mere mortals using our logical Ape brains and even with our doctorates, masters or honors degrees we are not living up to your expectations, since you only engage on your term. Oh Meme Meme
SimpleOke (and others) - "it's too complex for me" - truly, it's not! Years ago, the only info was in tough-to-grasp textbooks; now there are thousands of great books (the ones on physics, etc, can be daunting; but there are so many that walk you gently through the topics). I would liken many of the commentators I've seen on this site to a home-schooled hermit with a grade 3 education, locked in a dingy apartment; muttering darkly about the "fools" on the outside who "think" an ocean could stretch from horizon to horizon and be kilometers deep and brimming with life. That hermit bases his belief on his only experience of water; the small puddle in his toilet bowl. If all you ever read and draw your knowledge from is the bible; a bronze age desert tribe soap opera; then you are that hermit; you are devaluing your own capacity to really understand the world and its wonders.
Thanks everyone for all the information on God and Evolution. At last I think I've got it. Adam and Eve were the names of the worlds first Dinosaurs....
Anonymous (all of you) - I appreciate you don't want your idiotic, undereducated views to be pinned to yourself, but please at least adopt a pen-name so that we can differentiate between the fools. At risk of going off topic, but just putting some facts into the arguments posed: Humans *ARE* apes - genetically we branched from a *common ancestor* with today's chimps (not from chimps, but from common ancestors) about 7.5 million years ago (we and all other apes branched from monkeys 25 million years ago). Tomorrow when I have more time I'll answer the rest of you silliness, Anonymous - so do tune in please.
Why not 200 543 981 mil years ago?
Here we go again, the flat earth crowd simply cannot be convinced that sedimentary rocks formations such as those that abound in the Free State took millions of years to build up, and not simply in a once in 6000 year flood. It astounds me that people can be so narrow in their outlook and believe anything that is in the Good Book to be logical fact when there is ample evidence of the actual age of the earth right underneath their feet.
its too complex for me, a mere mortal, to understand. this HAS to be the work of a higher being. BTW; we branched off apes, not monkeys, a few hundred thousand years ago. Ignorance is so ugly. Keep paying tidings so your paster can keep enjoying hisher free ride. Idiots.
Cliff, I'm glad you believe you evolved from a monkey. I definitely have more brains. If we have all evolved, why are there still monkeys, chimps, etc? Can I tell you something: once you invite God into your heart, you will definitely see His hand in your life everyday. Try it, you will be amased at the outcome. Just remember, your heart must be in it.
Peculiar how we are astonished at the discovery that ancient animals cared for their young. Maybe it’s because it is only recently that dinosaurs have been rationalized from being terrifying mindless beasts, to animals that went about their daily lives much the same as the animals on earth we now live with. By the way most scientists believe the age of the earth and our solar system to be around 4.5billion years old.
Despite tons of evidence and years of discovery and more proof than would ever be required, the denialists will still refuse to believe in evolution. Since Darwin made his groundbreaking discoveries, hundreds and thousands of scientists have set out to prove AND disprove the Theory of Evolution but every year and every advance shows that Darwin had it in a nutshell even if he did not fully understand it. On the other hand, despite over 2,000 years of theist belief, there is still not one shred of evidence that a god exists. At every discovery, the theists have to find another explanation. Intelligent design is just such a leap - accepting the overwhelming proof of evolution but only if their god can be involved.
I think what the scientists have glibly leapfrogged is how something so complicated and well designed can be an accident - that is where all the investigative energy should be focused