Intact pterosaur eggs reported found with parents

  • June 15, 2014
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Intact pterosaur eggs reported found with parents


Re­search­ers are re­port­ing the find­ing of the first three-di­men­sion­ly pre­served eggs of pter­o­saurs, fly­ing rep­tiles with wing­spans up to half the length of a ten­nis court.

The eggs, found in Chi­na, turned up among at least doz­ens of pter­o­saur fos­sils, rep­re­sent­ing a new spe­cies called Hamip­terus tian­sha­nen­sis, sci­en­tists re­ported.

The an­i­mals lived to­geth­er in col­o­nies, ac­cord­ing to the re­search­ers, who pre­sented their work in the jour­nal Cur­rent Bi­ol­o­gy on June 5.

“Five eggs are three-di­men­sion­ly pre­served, and some are really com­plete,” said Xi­aolin Wang of the Chin­ese Acad­e­my of Sci­ences, who was in­volved with the re­search. It was most ex­cit­ing to find many male and female pter­o­saurs and their eggs pre­served to­geth­er, he added.

The pter­o­saur fos­sil rec­ord has gen­er­ally been poor, with lit­tle in­forma­t­ion about their popula­t­ions, the re­search­ers say. Only four iso­lat­ed and flat­tened pter­o­saur eggs were known to sci­ence be­fore now.

The rest­ing place of the pter­o­saurs now de­scribed was un­cov­ered in 2005 in the Turpan-Hami Ba­sin, south of the Tian Shan Moun­tains in Xin­jiang, north­west­ern Chi­na. The fos­sil-rich ar­ea is thought to pos­sibly har­bor thou­sands of bones. Wang said sed­i­ments in the ar­ea sug­gest that the pter­o­saurs died in a large storm about 120 mil­lion years ago in the Early Cre­ta­ceous pe­ri­od.

The re­search­ers ex­am­ined the largely in­tact pter­o­saur egg spec­i­mens to find that they were pli­a­ble, with a thin egg­shell out­side and a soft, thick mem­brane in­side, si­m­i­lar to the eggs of some mod­ern-day snakes. The re­search­ers' ob­serva­t­ions of 40 male and female in­di­vid­u­als sug­gested dif­fer­ences be­tween the sexes in the size, shape, and ro­bust­ness of their head crests.

The com­bina­t­ion of many pter­o­saurs and eggs strongly in­di­cates the pres­ence of a nest­ing site near­by and in­di­cates that this spe­cies de­vel­oped gre­gar­i­ous be­hav­ior, the re­search­ers said. Hamip­terusmost likely bur­ied their eggs in sand along the shore of an an­cient lake to pre­vent them from dry­ing out, they added. While the new fos­sils are thought to shed light on their re­pro­duc­tive strat­e­gy, de­vel­op­ment, and be­hav­ior, there's still much left to learn about them.

“Sites like the one re­ported here pro­vide fur­ther ev­i­dence re­gard­ing the be­hav­ior and bi­ol­o­gy of this amaz­ing group of fly­ing rep­tiles that has no par­al­lel in mod­ern time,” the re­search­ers wrote.

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Source : http://www.world-science.net

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