titanosaur sauropod

The discovery of 92 nesting sites with a total of 256 fossilized dinosaur eggs is an incredible achievement in itself. But the nests and eggs are helping researchers better understand one of the largest dinosaurs to ever roam India.

According to a recent study by University of Delhi, India, published in PLoS One, a team of paleontologists discovered the nesting sites in the Lameta Formation, a region of the Narmada Valley in central India and a hotbed of dinosaur fossils, especially from the Late Cretaceous period. The eggs and nests belonged to one of the largest dinosaurs that ever lived – the titanosaurs. This sauropod (a herbivore with a long neck) had a stockier figure and wider stance than other typical sauropods.

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Egg-like discovery in fossils

Thanks to recent discoveries, paleontologists can peer into the past and learn more about the nesting habits of titanosaurs.

(Credit: Dhiman et al., 2023, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0) (A) Fully unhatched egg from clutch P43. (B) Almost completely intact round outline of the egg, possibly indicating that it was unhatched and no loose shells were found in clutch P6. (C) Compressed egg from clutch DR10 showing a hatching window (arrow indicating a gap) and several eggshells clustered just around the hatching window (circled), possibly representing the remnants of the hatching window. (D) Egg from clutch P26 showing curved contours. (E) Deformed egg from clutch P30, showing egg surfaces sliding past each other.

“Together with the dinosaur nests from Jabalpur in the upper Narmada valley to the east and those from Balasinore to the west, the new nesting sites from the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh (Central India), covering an east-west stretch of about 1,000 km (about 600 miles) , represent one of the largest dinosaur hatcheries in the world,” says co-author and research team leader Guntupalli VR Prasad, in press release.

After analyzing the nests, the study authors identified six different types of titanosaur eggs – indicating that there may have been a greater variety of titanosaurs in the area than previously thought – based on the fossil record.

Modern relatives of dinosaurs

According to the study, the layout of the nest indicates that Titanosaurus may have laid its eggs in shallow pits, then buried them, as modern crocodiles do. However, there was also evidence of the so-called “egg-in-egg” phenomenon contraperistaltic contraction — a condition seen in chickens in which the formed egg is retracted into the hen’s oviduct only to form the second egg around it.

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The nests also indicate that Titanosaurus may have had a similar physiology to modern birds, where they successively laid their eggs. The nesting proximity of these dinosaurs is similar to modern birds such as great herons, cormorants and brown pelicans.

The researchers also noted that due to the proximity of the nests, the adult titanosaurs may have left the hatchlings to fend for themselves.

With these discoveries, researchers gain valuable insight into these massive dinosaurs.

“Our research has revealed the presence of an extensive sauropod titanosaurus dinosaur hatchery in the study area and offers new insights into nest preservation conditions and reproductive strategies of sauropod titanosaurus dinosaurs just before their extinction,” says Harsha Dhiman, lead author of the study in a press release.

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