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Researchers from University of Delhi and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Kolkata and Bhopal have reported the rare discovery of hundreds of titanosaur eggs and dinosaur nests in the Narmada Valley in Madhya Pradesh.
The findings of the study were published in PLOS One research journal in January 2023.
Peninsular India is already well-known for fossils of dinosaur eggs. The first dinosaur-related discovery from the area was reported in 1828 when Captain William Henry Sleeman found dinosaur bones near Jabalpur.
Field investigations carried out between 2017 and 2020 found extensive hatcheries of dinosaurs in Bagh and Kushi district areas of Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district, especially in villages Akhada, Dholiya Raipuriya, Jhaba, Jamniapura, and Padlya. Data included nest type, number of eggs, the diameter of eggs, egg shape, egg type, and pathology of egg clutches. Fossilised eggshells, specimens of host rocks of some of the egg clutches, and data on their sedimentological characteristics were also collected and recorded during the field investigations.
A total of 92 clutches (eggs laid in one nesting attempt) were documented from the five villages mentioned above. The intact clutches, isolated eggs, and eggshells found during field observations reported in the study have been assigned to the herbivorous titanosaurs. The fossilised dinosaur eggs observed belonged to six different species, showcasing high diversity in Indian sauropod community.
The eggs were laid in soft, marshy lands associated with small lakes or ponds. Some of these clutches would possibly get submerged in water, thus remaining unhatched, and fossilising over time. Overall, number of hatched eggs was greater than the unhatched eggs – fewer clutches are observed near the water bodies while most were away, and hence, hatched.
Titanosaur species observed in the area under study adopted “colonial nesting behaviour”, which is evident from the closely-spaced and abundant clutches. Findings also indicate towards lack of parental care in the observed species, as the size difference between juvenile and parent dinosaur is enormous and clutches are closely spaced. Observations support that titanosaurs were born as independent offspring who could feed themselves and move around independently soon after the eggs hatched.
Field observations found no osteological remains of either the embryo or the juvenile and parent dinosaurs in the area. This shows the possibility that the dinosaurs did not live where they laid their eggs. However, it is also possible that fossilised bones are still unexposed or removed by erosion over the centuries.
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