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university of pennsylvania
university of pennsylvania

Dinosaurs Needed Babysitters, Too

university of pennsylvania
university of pennsylvania

A 120 million-year-old fossil has revealed a new, rather endearing discovery about dinosaurs: They may have had babysitters to watch over their youngsters.

The fossil was originally discovered in northeastern China and appeared somewhat unremarkable to the amateur paleontologists who found it. But now, University of Pennsylvania researchers Brandon P. Hedrick and Peter Dodson are taking a closer look. "I saw a photo of it and instantly knew I wanted to explore it in more depth," Hedrick said.

The 2-foot-wide fossil contains the remains of 24 baby dinosaurs from the Psittacosaurus lujiatunensis species. As adults, these were gazelle-sized vegetable-eaters with strong beaks on their upper jaws (if you need a better visual, the species name is Greek for “parrot lizard”). P. lujiatunensis is one of the most common dinosaur species in science—hundreds of its fossils have been discovered across China, Mongolia, and Russia. But what makes this one unique is the 25th dinosaur in the nest, which is older and much bigger than the others—but not old enough to have been the parent. Instead, researchers think it was an adolescent—a teenager, if you will—tasked with keeping guard over the kids while the parents were out on a dino date.

This kind of babysitting is seen in modern birds. In fact, one study showed that 9 percent of bird species utilize babysitters to protect the family by warding off dangerous predators. These birds don’t reproduce, but do their part to pass on the family genes by ensuring the youngsters grow up healthy. The babysitting dinosaur could also have been an older sibling looking after its brothers and sisters.

Unfortunately, caretakers can only protect little ones from so much. Researchers think these 25 dinosaurs were killed by rock and water flow associated with a volcanic eruption. Dodson and Hedrick will examine the bones further to learn more about the creatures.

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Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
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science
Feathers, Fighting, and Feet: A Brief History of Dinosaur Art
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

One of the first-known works of dinosaur art was The country of the Iguanodon, an 1837 watercolor by John Martin. It depicts the ancient reptiles as giant iguanas, thrashing and fighting near a stone quarry—a far cry from today's sophisticated 3D renderings.

By watching the PBS Eons video below, you can learn how our image of dinosaurs has changed over the centuries, thanks to artworks based on new scientific discoveries and fossil findings. Find out why artists decided to give the prehistoric creatures either feathers or scales, make them either active or sluggish, present them as walking on two or four feet, and to imagine tails that either dragged or lifted, among other features.

Keep in mind, however, that both emerging technologies and new findings are constantly changing the way scientists view dinosaurs. A new species, on average, is named every two weeks—and this research will likely keep artists busy (and constantly revising their work) for years to come.

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Pop Chart Lab
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Design
Epic Poster Features Over 100 Hand-Drawn Illustrations of Dinosaurs
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

Paleontologists are constantly discovering new dinosaurs (or questioning whether beloved species ever existed in the first place), so it's hard to keep track of every dino that ever existed. But if you want an up-to-date catalogue of the most significant beasts from the Triassic to the Cretaceous periods, this taxonomy poster from Pop Chart Lab is tough to beat.

Titled Dinosauria, the chart organizes more than 700 genera of dinosaurs into one easy-to-read infographic. All of the standard favorites are represented, like Triceratops and T. Rex, as well as some more obscure or newly discovered prehistoric reptiles like Conchoraptor and Psittacosaurus. Pop Chart Lab pulled its data from the most current classification systems, even including research published just this year that unifies ornithischians with theropods.


The 100 hand-drawn illustrations and accompanying taxonomic timeline took over 500 hours of research to design. Hanging it on your wall at home requires a lot less effort: You can order a 24-inch-by-36-inch print for $37 from Pop Chart Lab’s online store.

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