190-mn-yr old 'world's oldest' dino embryos discovered in South Africa

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Washington, Nov 11 (ANI): Palaeontologists have discovered the world's oldest known dinosaur embryos that date to the early Jurassic Period 190 million years ago, in South Africa.

They belong to Massospondylus, a member of a group of dinosaurs called prosauropods that were ancestors to the giant, plant-eating sauropods. Sauropods are the iconic four-legged dinosaurs known for their long necks and long tails.

Professor Robert Reisz of the University of Toronto Mississauga and his colleagues made the discovery while analyzing the fossilized eggs.

The embryos are so remarkably well preserved that they permitted a complete reconstruction of the skeleton and detailed interpretations of the anatomy.

They were close to hatching, revealing their ossification (how much of their skeletons had turned to bone). The fossils also show that the future hatchlings would have been "oddly-proportioned" and would have looked very different from the adults of the species, according to the researchers.

With the awkward body proportions, it's then likely that the hatchlings would have required parental care. If that's the case, these fossils also document the oldest record of parental care, according to the palaeontologists.

"Prosauropods are the first dinosaurs to diversify extensively, and they quickly became the most widely spread group, so their biology is particularly interesting as they represent in many ways the dawn of the age of dinosaurs," Discovery News quoted Reisz as saying. (ANI)

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