Fossil Discovery Suggests Baby Titanosaurs Needed Little Parental Help

Posted on May 1, 2016

The newly discovered fossil of a baby titanosaur is providing insight into the early lives of the enormous dinosaurs. After hatching the little sauropod was similar in size to that of young modern mammals. The titanosaur hatched from an egg that was about the size of a soccer ball.

The researchers say the preserved partial skeleton was initially mistaken for a fossil crocodile. The fossil of the baby Rapetosaurus was discovered in the Upper Cretaceous Maevarano Formation of Madagascar. The image below shows a comparison of an adult Rapetosaurus, a baby Rapetosaurus and a human.

A baby titanosaur was about the size of a baby hippo at birth. It did not take long for the baby titanosaur to pass modern mammals in mass. The baby behemoths grew rapidly in size. Life for this particular titanosaur infant was not pleasant. The scientists suspect the fossilized baby titanosaur died of starvation after finding itself in a "harsh and unforgiving environment."

Kristi Curry Rogers of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, the leader of the research study, says in a statement, "This baby's limbs at birth were built for its later adult mass; as an infant, however, it weighed just a fraction of its future size. This is our first opportunity to explore the life of a sauropod just after hatching, at the earliest stage of its life."

Scientists think the young titanosaurs were able to quickly survive on their own. They were mobile after hatching and were less reliant on parental care than other animals. Rodgers says, "Baby sauropods like Rapetosaurus were somewhat like miniature adults."

A research paper on the baby Rapetosaurus was published here in the journal, Science. The NSF provided this video about the discovery. Take a look:

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