- Dinosaur embryos took as much time as bird embryos do to incubate.
- Small dinosaur eggs took three months to hatch while larger ones took around six months.
A research supported by the National Science Foundation determined how long it typically takes for a dinosaur embryo to incubate. The study conducted and led by a Florida State University professor established a timeline of anywhere between three to six months.
FSU professor Gregory Erickson and his team also explained how embryonic dental records helped determine the incubation period of a dinosaur embryo. There is little to nothing known about a dinosaur’s embryology, Erickson said. “Did their eggs incubate slowly like their reptilian cousins — crocodilians and lizards? Or rapidly like living dinosaurs — the birds?” the professor added.
Testing of Pre-Determined Theories
Scientists have long believed in the theory that a dinosaur embryo took as much time as a bird’s to hatch. The time duration has been specified as 11 to 85 days. On the other hand, reptilian eggs took twice as long.
Now, looking at the size of dinosaur eggs (about four kilograms or equal to the size of a volleyball), they derived that baby dinosaurs must have incubated at a rapid pace, with their avian predecessors inheriting the characteristic.
In light of these deductions, professor Erickson and his team decided to put these theories to test. The team gathered two types of fossils of dinosaur embryos:
- Protoceratops— a dinosaur from the Mongolian Gobi Desert, as big as a sheep
- Hypacrosaurus— a huge duck-billed dinosaur from Alberta, Canada
The Protoceratops dinosaur had very small eggs, about 194 grams. The Hypacrosaurus had enormous eggs, weighing over four kilograms.
As per a Science Daily report, Erickson and his team ran the embryonic jaws through a CT scanner to observe the forming dentition. The team then took out several teeth from the jaw to observe them under some powerful microscopes.
Erickson’s team noticed some growth lines on the teeth on those microscopic slides. This helped the researchers determine how long the dinosaur embryo took to grow in the eggs.
Just like tree trunk rings, “these are the lines that are laid down when any animal’s teeth develops,” Erickson said. “We could literally count them to see how long each dinosaur had been developing,” he added.
The ultimate findings were the facts that the embryo of a dinosaur the size of a Protoceratops took around three months to incubate while that of a giant dinosaur, the size of a Hypacrosaurus, took six months.
Mark Norell Macaulay, the curator for the American Museum of Natural History, considers dinosaur embryos as “some of the best fossils” to examine to find out something new.
“Here, we used spectacular fossils specimens collected by American Museum expeditions to the Gobi Desert, coupled them with new technology and new ideas, leading us to discover something truly novel about dinosaurs,” Macaulay added.