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10 Motherly Facts About Maiasaura

Maiasaura ’s name literally means “good mother lizard.” But was it really all that parental? Read on to find out.

1. It’s the State Fossil of Montana.

The Blue Sky state bestowed this honor upon Maiasaura in 1985.

2. Some Maiasaura Bones Have Been Sent into Outer Space.

That year also saw NASA propel a Maiasaura bone fragment and partial eggshell into orbit during one of their missions.  Not even Marty McFly had such an eventful 1985. 

3.  Maiasaura is One of the Only Dinos With a Female-Oriented Name.

Dinosaur suffixes can seem awfully monotonous. By far, the most common name ending is “-saurus,” which descends from the Greek word for “lizard.” For reasons we’ll explore later, paleontologist Jack Horner defied this trend and used the term’s female form—“saura”—when naming Maiasaura.

4. Fossilized Feces Imply that Maiasaura Chowed on Woody Foods.

Prehistoric poop can tell you a lot. A remarkable fossilized leaving—or “coprolite”—from Wyoming has long been attributed to Maiasaura. Weirdly, this specimen is loaded with wood fragments, revealing that whatever left it had just finished off one barky breakfast.

5. Maiasaura Built Great Nests (Possibly Even in Colonies).

Several well-preserved, crater-shaped Maiasaura nests have been discovered since 1979. Amazingly, fossilized plant material’s been reported inside a few of them, which presumably helped incubate their eggs. Also, because these structures are often found less than 7 feet apart, Horner has claimed that Maiasaura mothers would flock to communal nesting sites en masse in a kind of dinosaurian maternity ward.  

6. Baby Maiasaura Might Have Been Quite Helpless.

In addition to nests, dozens of infant Maiasaura skeletons have been discovered. As time has gone by, these wee beasties have proven slightly controversial. Early analysts argued that, thanks to some weak limb bones, they were incapable of walking about on their own and therefore depended upon adults for food. But later studies drew the opposite conclusion, reimagining baby Maiasaura as being much more independent.

7. There’s a Bizarre Notion that Maiasaura Used Reptilian “Milk.”

Okay, let’s look at the evidence (such as it is). Certain modern birds (like pigeons, doves, and flamingos) secrete a fatty, liquid-like substance called “crop milk” for their hatchlings. Did dinosaurs do this too? Dr. Paul L. Else thinks at least some species might have produced their own crop milk, citing Maiasaura as a probable example.

But while the idea’s certainly interesting, no compelling, non-speculative evidence currently exists to support it, so Else’s hypothesis hasn’t been taken seriously in paleontological circles.

8. Maiasaura ’s Closely Related to Some Mesmerizing Dinosaur Mummies.

Bones are great, but nothing can “flesh out” our understanding of an extinct animal quite like muscles. In recent years, “mummified” specimens of Brachylophosaurus and Edmontosaurus—two of Maiasaura ’s North American cousins—have turned up, complete with fossilized skin, tissue, and even organs.

9. The Site Maiasaura Was Originally Discovered in is Now Called “Egg Mountain” in Its Honor.

Located near the picturesque city of Choteau, Montana, Egg Mountain’s presently closed to the public. But fear not, paleo-tourists: you can still visit plenty of top-notch museums throughout the state.

10. An Animated Maiasaura Raises a Baby T. rex in You Are Umasou (2010).

Not to nitpick, but Maiasaura technically went extinct roughly 76 million years ago, well before Tyrannosaurus evolved. Still, dinosaur-lovers and anime fans alike will probably get a kick out of this eccentric Japanese film based on a popular book series of the same name.  

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LEGO
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New LEGO Set Recreates Jurassic Park's Iconic Velociraptor Chase Scenes
LEGO
LEGO

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise, is skulking into theaters on June 22. That makes now the perfect time to revisit the original film in LEGO form.

This LEGO set, spotted by Nerdist, depicts some of the most suspenseful scenes from the 1993 movie. There's the main computer room where Ariana Richards's Lex shows off her hacker skills while Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) struggle to keep a hungry dinosaur from barging in. Just like in the film, the door features a deadbolt lock that's velociraptor-proof (though, unfortunately for the characters, the detachable window is not). Other Easter eggs hidden in this part include a map of Isla Nublar and a screener saver of LEGO Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight).

In the neighboring room, you'll find the cold storage unit where the dinosaur embryos are kept, along with the fake shaving cream can Nedry uses to steal them. The final section is the kitchen, where Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex are stalked by the velociraptor. There's less room for them to hide in the LEGO version compared to the movie set, but there is at least one functioning cabinet for Lex to tuck herself into. Closer inspection reveals even more details from the film, like the lime-green Jello Lex is eating when the raptors first arrive and the step ladder the gang uses to escape into the air ducts during the final chase.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

The Jurassic Park Velociraptor Chase set is currently available from the LEGO shop for $40.

[h/t Nerdist]

All images courtesy of LEGO.

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CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK
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science
Why Are There No More Dinosaurs?
CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK
CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Do you have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

Actually, there are still dinosaurs: Birds! But let’s talk about that a little later. Scientists have found clues in rocks and fossils that tell us that by 65 million years ago, the climate (CLY-met), or usual weather, of the Earth had changed a lot, becoming cooler and drier. That was hard on the heat-loving dinosaurs. But that’s not why almost all of the dinosaurs became extinct, or disappeared forever. Scientists think a terrible event occurred that killed them off.

In 1991, scientists discovered a huge 110-mile-long crater, or hole, in the Gulf of Mexico. They think this crater was made by a giant, fiery, 6-mile-wide asteroid (AST-er-oyd) from space that smashed into the Earth about 65 million years ago. The impact was more powerful than any bomb we have ever known. Scientists believe this event killed most plant and animal life—including the dinosaurs. The asteroid probably caused shockwaves, earthquakes, fireballs, wildfires, and tidal, or really big, waves. It also sent huge amounts of dust and gas into the atmosphere, which is like a big blanket of air that surrounds the Earth. That was really bad for the planet.

The dust blocked sunlight, making the planet very cold and dark. Then, over time, the gases trapped heat, causing the Earth to get even hotter than it was before the asteroid hit. This change was deadly for most dinosaurs, and they became extinct. But birds survived. Many millions of years earlier, they had evolved (ee-VOL-ved), or changed slowly over time, from one group of dinosaurs. And when the dinosaurs disappeared, mammals diversified (die-VERSE-uh-fide), or changed, into many different kinds of animals—including us, many millions of years later. So the next time you see a bird swoop by, wave hello to the little flying dinosaur!    


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