Pterosaur Eggs by the Dozen Found in China

  • Pterosaur Eggs by the Dozen Found in China

Pterosaur Eggs by the Dozen Found in China

Where paleontologists discovered the eggs: The 215 pterosaur eggs in question belong to the species Hamipterus tianshanensis and hail from China.

"From our discovery, we conclude that the newborns of pterosaurs, at least Hamipterus, were likely to walk on the ground, but were not able to fly in the sky because the femur in the embryo is well developed, but the forelimbs are not well developed", Wang said.

What does this mean for pterosaur parenting? The team added that young pterosaurs were probably very reliant on their parents.

Where do these eggs leave us? .

"This is by far the most exciting discovery that I know of", said Alexander Kellner, co-author of the new study and paleontologist at the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Probably a fish-eater, H. tianshanensis inhabited hot and dry environments but would have buried its eggs in the sand and vegetation found on the shores of lakes or rivers. According to the researchers these creatures lived near a large freshwater lake and the fossils of the creatures (along with the eggs), were washed into the lake where they were preserved and later turned into fossils.

"Although most eggs are complete, small fissures resulting from decomposition and compression during burial must have occurred because all eggs are filled with sandstone, which ultimately accounts for their three-dimensionality".

While all four of the outside researchers contacted for this story seemed genuinely wowed by the team's findings, they did not agree with all of the conclusions the study's authors drew from the fossils.

The eggs themselves had soft, parchment-like shells. "Not even in your dreams, '" Kellner told the Times. The team used computed tomography scanning to peer inside 42 eggs, and found 16 that contained the remains of embryos at various stages of development, with partial skulls and limb bones.

As it happens, the scans revealed that unborn pterosaurs showed signs of a more advanced development of their legs and not so much of their arms and wings, suggesting they might not have been able to fly from the get-go as previously believed. For starters, he said, the embryos in question were likely only halfway done growing, so they would have developed more before they hatched out.

The large quantities of eggs, together with bones and other specimens, indicated the now extinct animals participated in colonial nesting behavior, Wang said.

"They try to paint a picture of how these things worked, but the reality of it is that the evidence isn't there", he said.

While fossils of Pterosaurs have been discovered earlier as well, what makes this discovery even more special is that this is the first time that the eggs of pterosaurs have been found with their embryos well preserved.

However, many questions remain, including whether the size of each clutch was really two as previous studies have suggested, just how the pterosaurs concealed their eggs, whether beneath vegetation or sand or soil, and why so numerous eggs appear dehydrated. Others boasted wild and insane crests, which may have been used to attract the opposite sex, as has been suggested with H. tianshanensis. The sheer amount of samples also suggests that pterosaurs adhered to specific nesting locations and protected their eggs until they hatched, much like some marine bird species of today.