A University of Rhode Island paleontologist has described a large nest of juvenile Protoceratops andrewsi dinosaurs – first of this genus ever found – from Mongolia.
The nest that contains the fossilized remains of 15 Protoceratops juveniles reveals new information about postnatal development and parental care.
It also indicates for the first time that these juveniles remained in the nest for an extended period.
David Fastovsky, URI professor of geosciences, said the bowl-shaped nest measuring 2.3 feet in diameter was found in the Djadochta Formation at Tugrikinshire, Mongolia.
“Finding juveniles at a nest is a relatively uncommon occurrence, and I cannot think of another dinosaur specimen that preserves 15 juveniles at its nest in this way,” he said.
The analysis of the 70-million-year-old nest by Fastovsky and his colleagues found that all 15 dinosaurs – at least 10 of which are complete specimens – were about the same size and had achieved the same state of growth and development, suggesting they represent a single clutch from a single mother.
The discovery also indicates that the young dinosaurs remained in the nest through the early stages of postnatal development and were cared for by their parents.
Protoceratops grew to about 6 feet long and may have taken as long as 10 years to reach full size. Those Fastovsky found in the nest were likely less than one year old when they died.
The findings were reported in the most recent issue of the Journal of Paleontology.