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Dinosaur Eggs Take Longer Time to Hatch -- And This Might Have Played a Role in Their Extinction

Jan 02, 2017 11:20 AM EST
Dinosaur eggs
Fossilized dinosaur eggs were recently unearthed in south China.
(Photo : Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Dinosaurs hatch much longer than originally believed and it is a significant discovery in relation to their extinction.

According to a report from Eureka, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discovered that non-avian dinos incubate anywhere from three to six months.

This is a pretty long time considering many bird eggs hatch within 11 to 85 days. In this case, the dinosaurs are more like reptiles than birds, who are often believed to be the evolved transformation of two-legged dinosaurs dubbed as theropods, as reported in Quanta Magazine in 2015.

It turns out, this prolonged incubation may have potentially played a part in the dinosaurs' eventual extinction. This exposed the vulnerable eggs to a number of dangers for a longer period of time including predators, starvation and environmental disasters. It was also a disadvantage when the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event hit, causing the dinosaurs to die out.

A report from Phys Org added that the study also scratched out theories that a number of dinosaurs nested in the temperate regions of Canada, then made their way to the Arctic in the summer. It's now thought to be unlikely considering the hatching time.

This recent study saw the researchers observe the fossilized teeth of two ornithischian dinosaur embryos. The computed tomography (CT) at the Museum's Microscopy and Imaging Facility was used to scan the embryonic jaws and visualize the dentitions being formed. After, scientists used a different advanced microscope to find the pattern of what's called the von Ebner lines, growth lines in teeth.

"These are the lines that are laid down when any animal's teeth develops[sic]," Gregory Erickson, lead author and Florida State University professor, explained about the experiment. "They're kind of like tree rings, but they're put down daily. And so we could literally count them to see how long each dinosaur had been developing."

The pig-sized Protoceratops egg died when it was three months old, while the larger duck-billed Hypacrosaurus was at six months.

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