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Wednesday, 21 March 2007 22:24

First burrowing dinosaur fossils discovered

U.S. and Japanese palaeontologists have found the first fossil evidence of dinosaurs living in underground burrows and caring for their young.

Researchers from Montana State University (Boseman), Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia), and Gifu Prefectural Museum (Oyana, Japan) found fossilized bones inside a twisting deposit of sandstone in an old dried out river bed in southwest Montana. The bones are from a previously unknown two-legged plant-eating dinosaur that they named Oryctodromeus cubicularis, or “digging runner of the lair”.

The three sets of bone were of an adult and two offspring. The adult was about 2.1 meters (7 feet) in length, with about one-half of the length consisting of its tail. The adult was estimated to weigh from 22 to 32 kilograms (48.5 to 70.6 pounds) or about the size of an adult coyote. The young were about half the size of the adult.

The researchers was astonished to find such behavior in dinosaurs—the first discovery of its kind.

Part of a group called hypsilophodonts, the three members of the Oryctodromeus cubicularis are featured in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B article “First trace and body fossil evidence of a burrowing, denning dinosaur” by David J. Varricchio, Anthony J. Martin, and Yoshihiro Katsura.

The abstract of the article appears at: https://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/(verphx55wubeamzz2t3r4v55)/app/home/contribution.asp?referrer=parent&backto=issue,6,20;journal,1,322;linkingpublicationresults,1:102024,1. Access to the full article is also available at this Web site.

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