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Palm-size dinosaur found in Utah.

While prospecting for plant fossils at Dinosaur National Monument last year, a group of researchers discovered the tiny bones of an embryonic dinosaur from 150 million years ago. The accidental find suggests that dinosaur babies and eggs may be more common in this region than previously thought.

The embryo turned up in the Morrison formation, a famous rock layer from Earth's Jurassic period that has yielded some of the largest dinosaurs ever found. But despite more than a century of intense study, researchers have found only one other embryonic dinosaur in the Morrison, says Dan Chure, the park paleontologist at Dinosaur National Monument, which is in Utah and Colorado.

Researchers uncovered the bones last fall and identified them this spring after removing the fragile fossils from their rocky tomb. The find includes vertebrae, a shoulder girdle, ribs, and limb bones. The distinctively shaped shoulder girdle reveals that this plant-eater belonged to the genus Camptosaurus, which reached 8 meters in length as an adult. From the available bones, Chure estimates that the embryo was only 22 centimeters long. Curled up, it would have fit in a pair of cupped hands. Aside from the bones' tiny size, their texture and shape suggest they were embryonic, Chure says.

The find hints that the Morrison formation may hold significant remains of baby dinosaurs that researchers have missed in the past while searching for giant bones, Chure adds. Paleontologists working in Montana and in Alberta, Canada, have found many nesting sites of dinosaurs from the Cretaceous period, which followed the Jurassic. The Cretaceous remains reveal that some dinosaurs bred communally, building nests near each other. If further investigations uncover more eggs and embryos from the Morrison, paleontologists can determine whether communal nesting was an early feature of dinosaur life in the Jurassic, or whether it only evolved with the later dinosaurs of the Cretaceous.
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Title Annotation:embryonic bones found at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and Colorado
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 5, 1992
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