Menu

Long Egg Incubations May Have Doomed the Dinosaurs

An investigation of fossilized teeth reveals that some dinosaurs took more than six months to hatch, hindering their abilities to procreate quickly and efficiently.

Jan 5, 2017
Diana Kwon

FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY, DARLA ZELINITSKY From their warm-blooded innards to their feathered exteriors, increasing evidence shows that birds and many dinosaur species had a lot in common. But a key difference exists early in life, according to a study published January 3 in PNAS—dinosaurs had vastly longer egg incubation periods, more similar to that of modern reptiles than birds.

Gregory Erickson, a paleontologist at Florida State University, and colleagues analyzed the dental records of embryos in fossilized dinosaur eggs. By examining fine growth lines that represent daily deposits of tooth-building tissue called dentin, the researchers determined that dinosaur eggs probably took about twice as long to hatch as similarly-sized bird eggs. Protoceratops andrewsi, a horned dino, incubated their eggs for about three months, the study suggests, while the larger, duckbilled Hypacrosaurus stebingeri incubated theirs for six.

The findings may provide insight into how dinosaurs ultimately went extinct. Incubation times increase with egg size, the authors write, and Hypacrosaurus was hardly the largest dinosaur around. After a devastating event like an asteroid impact, long incubation times would have been hugely disadvantageous, hindering dinosaurs’ abilities to repopulate quickly and limiting their movements to regions where they could incubate their eggs.

“What would be really interesting now is to see if small theropod dinosaurs like Velociraptor also incubated slowly,” Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburg who was not involved in the study, told Science Magazine. “If more modern-style birds are the only ones that incubate very quickly, it could be that this feat of biology gave them a better lotto ticket for surviving the asteroid impact that killed off all of the other dinosaurs.” 

November 2018

Intelligent Science

Wrapping our heads around human smarts

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Slice® Safety Cutters for Lab Work

Slice® Safety Cutters for Lab Work

Slice cutting tools—which feature our patent-pending safety blades—meet many lab-specific requirements. Our scalpels and craft knives are well suited for delicate work, and our utility knives are good for general use.

The Lab of the Future: Alinity Poised to Reinvent Clinical Diagnostic Testing and Help Improve Healthcare

The Lab of the Future: Alinity Poised to Reinvent Clinical Diagnostic Testing and Help Improve Healthcare

Every minute counts when waiting for accurate diagnostic test results to guide critical care decisions, making today's clinical lab more important than ever. In fact, nearly 70 percent of critical care decisions are driven by a diagnostic test.

LGC announces new, integrated, global portfolio brand, Biosearch Technologies, representing genomic tools for mission critical customer applications

LGC announces new, integrated, global portfolio brand, Biosearch Technologies, representing genomic tools for mission critical customer applications

LGC’s Genomics division announced it is transforming its branding under LGC, Biosearch Technologies, a unified portfolio brand integrating optimised genomic analysis technologies and tools to accelerate scientific outcomes.