The scientific tourist #55 — Maiasaura

This week’s image comes to you from the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming –it’s of a Maiasaura tending to her nest full of hatchlings:


I’m dating myself here, but when I was a kid, we were taught that dinosaurs just laid their eggs and then abandoned them to their fates — with absolutely no parental care involved. That all changed in 1978 when paleontologist Jack Horner discovered fossilized Maiasaura nests — with the mothers fossilized nearby. This proximity, combined with obvious wear to the hatchlings’ teeth, made it clear that the Maiasaura were tending their young, bringing them food as they grew (and presumably defending them from predators, at least to some degree).

Horner named the dinosaurs after the Latin for “good mother lizard,” as they provided the first evidence of dinosaurs caring for their young. The discovery of their nests in Montana helped feed a dramatic shift in how dinosaurs were perceived by both scientists and the public at large.

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