Pterosaur Eggs by the Dozen Found in China

Pablo Tucker
December 3, 2017

Adult and juvenile fossils from males and females were also discovered at the site in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

A treasure trove of ancient eggs - 215 to be exact - exposes how flying reptiles called pterosaurs developed in infanthood and how parents took care of their young.

"Among the behavioural characteristics of these animals that we discovered is that they formed nesting colonies, where several families came to the same sites to lay their eggs and always returned to these areas, implying that they were areas favourable for nest-building".

Rio de Janeiro: A team of Brazilian and Chinese paleontologists have announced the discovery of about 300 fossilised eggs and skeletons of pterosaurs, a number of them quite well-preserved.

The CT scans meant the researchers could use X-rays to see inside the eggs and embryos without destroying them, the first time this has been done with pterosaur eggs (although dinosaur eggs have been studied like this before). Kellner suspects recent storms caused torrential flooding which unearthed the eggs and washed them into the fossil record, along with other, older pterosaurs that fell victim to the deluge.

A dazzling discovery in northwestern China of hundreds of fossilized pterosaur eggs is providing fresh understanding of these flying reptiles that lived alongside the dinosaurs, including evidence that their babies were born flightless and needed parental care. Unfortunately, research for this species is hard due to the lack of pterosaur eggs discovered with their embryos clearly preserved. Egg accumulation with 3D embryos provides insight into the life history of a pterosaur. And of those, paleontologists have just six three-dimensional eggs - that is, eggs not completely flattened by millions of years of being crushed under younger sediments. This, too, is an embarrassment of riches because it means scientists now have more information about how pterosaurs progressed from egg to adult than ever before.

To understand why Unwin and others are freaking out about the discovery, published Thursday in the journal Science, you have to first appreciate how rare pterosaur eggs are. Although most eggs are complete, small fissures resulting from decomposition and compression during burial must have occurred because all eggs are filled with sandstone, which ultimately accounts for their three-dimensionality. Bones are distributed along the egg, and mostly disarticulated and displaced from their natural position.

"However, the structure supporting the pectoral muscle appears to be underdeveloped during the embryonic stage, suggesting that newborns were likely not able to fly". They found that the late-stage embryos didn't yet have teeth, and their forelimbs were less developed than their hind limbs. "Not even in your dreams, '" Kellner told the Times. Others boasted wild and insane crests, which may have been used to attract the opposite sex, as has been suggested with H. tianshanensis. But with paleontologists working more and more on the case, it only seems like only a matter of time now.

Charles Deeming from the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom.

"Then of course we have to find the fossils in the first place". The skull roof was not well ossified before the animal hatched, and no teeth were found in any of the embryos.

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