See Inside October 2005

Crawling Sensation

From all fours to bipedal giants--and needing parents

Some dinosaurs, just like people, had to crawl before they could walk. The conclusion comes from a rare clutch of remarkably pristine dinosaur embryo fossils dating back to 190 million years ago. Although the embryos--the oldest yet discovered--were found in South Africa in 1978, analysis had to wait until the fossils could be sent to a paleontology laboratory with the right tools, including a vibrationless table and special dissecting devices.

After a year of scraping away rock and eggshell, investigators assigned the bones to the Prosauropod Massospondylus, a five-meter-long, plant-eating biped with a long neck and short head. The 15-centimeter-long embryos had large forelimbs and heads, horizontal necks and short tails compared with the adults--a clunky form that suggests they hatched as crawlers.

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