Paleontologists working in South Africa have found a nesting site for dinosaur eggs that is 190 million years old--100 million years older than any previously discovered site.
The BBC News reports that 20 separate nests were found, each of which contained clutches of up to 34 eggs, measuring from 2.4 inches to 2.8 inches.
The fossils, which are of the prosauropod Massospondylus, a relative of the long-necked sauropods, such as Diplodocus, also included embryonic dinosaur skeletons.
Discovered in South Africa's Golden Gate Highlands National Park, the nesting site stretches about 82 feet over rock. Paleontologists say that the Massospondylus dinosaurs returned to the area often, laying their eggs in groups, making this the earliest-known case of "colonial nesting."
It is possible this is just one of several such sites embedded in the rock. If others are there, they will be exposed as natural weathering processes continue.
This discovery is very exciting to paleontologists since it vastly extends what is known about dinosaurs in their earliest days on Earth.
"Even though the fossil record of dinosaurs is extensive, we actually have very little fossil information about their reproductive biology, particularly for early dinosaurs," David Evans, associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, told the BBC.
"This amazing series of 190-million-year-old nests gives us the first detailed look at dinosaur reproduction early in their evolutionary history, and documents the antiquity of nesting strategies that are only known much later in the dinosaur record," he added.
The study findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
--From the Editors at Netscape