The oldest known dinosaur embryo fossils have ever been examined in “unprecedented” detail to reveal how dinosaur skulls developed.
Scientists have used 3D technologies to study eggs laid about 200 million years ago by the five-meter-long herbivore Massospondylus carinatus, which lived somewhere in today’s South African territories.
Researchers at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa found that dinosaur skulls developed in the same order as the embryos of living dinosaur relatives, such as crocodiles, chickens, turtles and lizards.
The eggs, discovered by scientists in 1976, are among the oldest known fossils of dinosaur embryos that have ever been discovered.
How did they reconstruct the skulls in 3D?
Until now, the usefulness of embryo fossils for research purposes had been limited due to the fact that they are very fragile, as scientists explain.
However, with the help of a new method of non-destructive scanning, they succeeded to visualize fossils with precision “Unprecedented” to the resolution of an individual bone cell.
Using high-power X-rays, the scientists reconstructed the skulls and were able to see that the dinosaur embryos, which had skulls smaller than 2 cm in size, had two sets of teeth between 0.4 and 0.7 in size. mm wide – similar to those of crocodiles and gecko lizards.
“It’s incredible that in over 250 million years of reptile evolution, the way the skull develops in the egg remains more or less the same,” said Jonah Choiniere, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand and co-author of the study.
The scientists’ findings indicated that the embryonic development pattern did not change in nearly 200 million years and that dinosaurs developed in the egg just like their reptilian relatives.