From National Geographic Daily News by Anne Casselman:
The approximately 75-million-year-old nest shows 15 juvenile members of Protoceratops andrewsi—a relative of Triceratops—entombed in ancient sand dune deposits. The nest was recently discovered by Mongolian paleontologist Pagmin Narmandakh in the region’s Djadokhta formation.
Unlike other dinosaur nests found with fossil eggs, the babies in this nest appear to have been about a year old when they died.
(Related picture: “Birdlike Dinosaur Eggs Found.”)
“We think there’s good evidence for some sort of parental care, because these animals are growing together at the nest,” said Fastovsky, a paleontologist at the University of Rhode Island. “They did not come fresh out of eggs two minutes ago.”
This is exciting evidence that dinosaurs may have been “good parents.” It appears the Protoceratops cared for its young well after hatching.
A question from our own Michael Fisher: I’m puzzled why a large number of kiddies are together in a nest ~ they’re not hatchlings & a parent couldn’t feed them all ~ seems strange to me. Do they graze & return to a communal nest at night for defence? The adults are sheep-sized herbivores [but bear in mind that grass had yet to be 'invented' then].
I agree. It makes me wonder could it have been for warmth? Some paleontologists have posited that the dinosaurs may have been warm blooded.
Could Protoceratops fossils be the origin of the griffin myths?
Folklorist and historian of science Adrienne Mayor of Stanford University has suggested that the exquisitely preserved fossil skeletons of Protoceratops and other beaked dinosaurs, found by ancient Scythian nomads who mined gold in the Tian Shan and Altai Mountains of Central Asia, may have been at the root of the image of the mythical creature known as the griffin. Griffins were described as lion-sized quadrupeds with large claws and a raptor-bird-like beak; they laid their eggs in nests on the ground.
Greek writers began describing the griffin around 675 B.C., at the same time the Greeks first made contact with Scythian nomads. Griffins were described as guarding the gold deposits in the arid hills and red sandstone formations of the wilderness. The region of Mongolia and China where many Protoceratops fossils are found is rich in gold runoff from the neighboring mountains, lending some credence to the theory that these fossils were the basis of griffin myths. (source Wikipedia)
Here’s what I plan to do with this today
The picture of the baby Protoceratops is very moving. It demonstrates it sudden nature of the fossilization process.
After discussing the photo and reviewing fossilization, I am going to ask my monkey to create her own myth. We will brainstorm some possible topics: thunder, lightening, the seasons (just to name a few). I’ll ask her to write her myth in the comments section. I invite you to do the same (posts on Socratic Mama can be anonymous and your email will not be published). Let’s fire up their creativity.