Dinosaurs were much more social than previously thought

Ancient fossils show that dinosaurs engaged in group roosting behavior.
By Jackie Flores | Oct 24, 2017
The fossils of three young dinosaurs found in the Gobi desert show that the ancient reptiles engaged in communal roosting, new research published in the journal Nature reports.

The younglings were covered in a thick layer of ash or soil -- which probably came from a volcanic eruption or sand storm -- that poured over and killed them. Their fossils then remained in that spot for 70 million years until a team of U.S. scientists discovered the bones earlier this year.

The team analyzed the samples and found they are the first known example of dinosaur roosting on record. That is important because communal roosting -- where animals sleep together in groups -- is observed in many modern animal species.

"This is a spectacular discovery for it shows these were animals that were living together in flocks like birds do today," said Stephen Brusatte, a researcher at Edinburgh University, according to The Guardian. "They probably had feathers, although they could not fly. However, they were undoubtedly social creatures."

The creatures uncovered in the study have not yet been named. However, they had domed crests on their heads and likely walked on two legs.

Many new dinosaur characteristics have been uncovered recently, including the fact that they were warm-blooded and used their feathers to attract mates. Some studies have also shown that certain species had striped feathered coats, while others had patches or crests.

Though there is a chance the remains found in the study were compressed by a flood that occurred far after the animals' deaths, the scientists believe the rock kept the younglings' shape. Two of the babieswere crouched belly down with their necks curled back towards their bodies and their forelimbs cradled up on their heads. That is a pose similar to sleeping ostriches and emus, giving more information on the connection between the reptiles and today's birds.

This is the first time dinosaurs have been recorded as group sleepers. Researchers now plan to look at other ancient species to better understand the behavior and see if they nested in the same way.

"The origins of communal roosting in birds are still debated, so this specimen will provide valuable information on roosting habits in bird-line theropods," said Gregory Funston, a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Alberta, according to Phys.org.


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