The Dinohunters

A History of Dinosaur Hunting and Reconstruction

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Massospondylus is a prosuaropod dinosaur, not very different from Diplodocus. They roamed in large herds in the Triassic and early Jurassic, with adults being approximately 4-6 metres long. Many specimens have been recovered from South Africa - the earliest known specimen was described by Richard Owen as early as 1854.

There is some discussion as to whether Massospondylus was quadrapedal or bipedal. Given the size of the creature, quadrapedal would seem more likely and indeed was the favoured theory up until 2007 .

dinosaur image

Artist's impression of Massospondylus

Embryonic skelton found at the site (D.Scott)

Handprint of a baby found at the site (D. Scott)

Artist's impression of baby Massospondylus

Dinosaur Nests and Eggs

In 1977, seven 190-million-year-old Massospondylus eggs were found in Golden Gate Highlands National Park in South Africa by James Kitching, who identified them as most likely belonging to Massospondylus. It was nearly 30 years before extraction was started on the fossils of the 15-centimeter- (6 in-) long embryos. Notably, the near-hatchlings had no teeth, suggesting they had no way of feeding themselves. Based on the lack of teeth and the animal's body proportions, scientists speculate that postnatal care might have been necessary.

In January 2012 a new discovery was reported in proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Robert Reisz, a paleontologist and professor of biology at the University of Toronto, of a nesting site of Massospondylus, again found in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in South Africa. Many of the nests of fossilised eggs contain embryos and tiny footprints of hatchlings around them reveal the baby dinosaurs stayed in their nests until they had doubled in size. The find suggests the creatures were indeed caring mothers.

At least 10 nests were discovered, each containing up to 34 eggs in tightly clustered clutches.

"Even though the fossil record of dinosaurs is extensive, we actually have very little fossil information about their reproductive biology, particularly for early dinosaurs," said Dr David Evans, curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada.

"This amazing series of 190m-year-old nests gives us the first detailed look at dinosaur reproduction early in their evolutionary history, and documents the antiquity of nesting strategies that are only known much later in the dinosaur record."