A 70-million-year-old nest of the dinosaur Protoceratops andrewsi has been found with evidence that 15 juveniles were once inside it, according to a paper in the latest Journal of Paleontology. While large numbers of eggs have been associated with other dinosaurs, such as the meat-eating Oviraptor or certain duck-billed hadrosaurs, finding multiple juveniles in the same dino nest is quite rare.
“I, for one, cannot think of another dinosaur specimen that preserves 15 juveniles at its nest in this way,” lead author David Fastovsky told Discovery News.
Fastovsky, who is chair of the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Geosciences, and his colleagues analyzed the dinosaur remains along with the nest, which measured about 2.3 feet in diameter and was round and bowl-shaped. All were found at Djadochta Formation, Tugrikinshire, Mongolia, where it’s believed sand “rapidly overwhelmed and entombed” the youngsters while they were still alive. The researchers conclude that the 15 dinosaurs all show juvenile characteristics. These include short snouts, proportionately large eyes, and an absence of adult characteristics, such as the prominent horns and large frills associated with adults of this species. At least 10 of the 15 fossil sets are complete.
The nest and its contents imply that Protoceratops juveniles remained and grew in their nest during at least the early stages of postnatal development. The nest further implies that parental care was provided.