This article is from the In-Depth Report The Science of Fatherhood
60-Second Science

Dinosaurs Were Dutiful Dads

A study in the journal Science looked at bones from dinosaurs found with clutches of eggs, and found that the caretakers appear to be male. Karen Hopkin reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

If you saw the movie March of the Penguins, or even the animated film Happy Feet, you know that male penguins take their role as parents pretty seriously. Now, a study from Montana State University shows that being a dutiful dad is something even dinosaurs did.

The scientists examined the fossilized remains of three different kinds of two-legged dinosaurs, which are thought to be the ancestors of modern birds. They focused on fossils in which an adult animal was found perched atop a clutch of eggs. And they found that the creatures that died while sitting on a nest did not seem to be female. Lady birds store the minerals they need for building egg shells inside their hollow limb bones. But these dinos did not have that mineral-rich bone tissue, which suggests they were males, results that appear in the December 19th issue of the journal Science.

These dino dads were probably polygamous, the scientists say, because their bones were found on top of some pretty big clutches. So it seems they may have wooed multiple mates, and were then left in charge of a veritable dinosaur day care center, filled with their various girlfriends’ eggs. Which they somehow apparently kept from getting scrambled.

—Karen Hopkin 

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