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Dinosaur Babies Found In 'Dragon's Tomb' Shed Light On Early Species Development, Researchers Say

Oct 15, 2015 01:25 PM EDT

Multiple baby duck-billed dinosaurs, identified as Saurolophus angustirostris, were recently excavated from "Dragon's Tomb" in Mongolia. Hidden within the fossils, researchers found four perinatal specimens and two associated eggshell fragments. All of the dinosaurs are believed to have belonged to the same nest.

Dragon's Tomb, located in the Gobi Desert, is a well-known treasure trive for Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils. After examining these recent fossils, an international team of researchers discovered that the young dinosaurs most likely lived in a nest located on a sandy riverbank, according to their news release .  

S. angustirostris is a well-documented dinosaur species. Researchers were able to identify the babies as members of S. angustirostris due to their upwardly directed snout. The skulls of the fossils were also considered to be very small in comparison to measurements taken of larger known specimens. This evidence, combined with what researchers determined was a developing skull, indicates that the newly discovered fossils represent premature fossil members – aka babies.

"The poorly developed crest in Saurolophus babies provides evidence of ontogenetic crest growth within the Saurolophini tribe. The Saurolophini are the only Saurolophinae to bear supra cranial crests as adults," Leonard Dewaele, of the Ghent University and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Belgium, explained in the release. 

Fossil evidence indicated the babies were already dead and partially decomposed by the time they were buried by the river sediment during the wet summer season. However, researchers were unable to determine whether or not the individuals were still in their eggs or had hatched before dying, according to the release.

On the whole, the finding helps to paint a clearer picture of how this well-known dinosaur species developed millions of years ago. The study was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.

A video describing the recent find can be found online, courtesy of YouTube. 

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