Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Washington Post Features

May 29, 2013

Dinosaur dads may not have been very caring after all

Male dinosaurs may not have had a caring side after all.

Five years ago, a study of theropod dinosaurs concluded that it was male dinosaurs that incubated the eggs of their offspring. Now a new analysis of the same data is challenging that finding.

It is notoriously difficult to work out how long-extinct animals behaved, but a few fossils found in recent decades show clearly that some Mesozoic theropods, a bipedal group of carnivorous dinosaurs, made — and sat on — nests, apparently in the same way that birds do today.

In 2008, David Varricchio at Montana State University in Bozeman and his colleagues set about learning more about dinosaur parenting. Their strategy was to combine data from those fossils with what we know about how their descendants behave today.

They deduced the adult body mass of the nesting dinosaurs and counted the maximum number of fossil eggs in the nests attributed to each species. They then compared their figures to similar data from studies of birds and crocodiles.

This revealed that nesting theropod dinosaurs produced unusually large clutches for their body mass, a pattern often seen in birds in which the male alone cares for the eggs. In these species, female birds can plow more resources into bigger clutches, because the female is free to leave the nest and replenish her energy reserves after laying eggs. Varricchio's team concluded that among theropods, the males were also the egg incubators.

But recently a group of British researchers reanalyzed the data and came to a different conclusion.

Led by Charles Deeming at the University of Lincoln, the researchers say the 2008 analysis didn't consider a few key points. For instance, some birds today deliberately lay their eggs in another bird's nest to avoid having to care for them. This distorts the size of some clutches, making them seem unusually large. Theropod dinosaurs may have behaved in the same way.

Text Only
Washington Post Features
  • A 'wearable robot' helps her walk again

    Science is about facts, numbers, laws and formulas. To be really good at it, you need to spend a lot of time in school. But science is also about something more: dreaming big and helping people.

    April 23, 2014

  • McCain 1 House Republicans are more active on Twitter than Democrats

    Your representative in the House is almost certainly on Twitter. Your senator definitely is. But how are they using the social network? Are Democrats more active than Republicans, or vice versa? Who has the most followers on the Hill?

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 17, 2014

  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 15, 2014

  • DayCareCosts.jpg Day care's cost can exceed college tuition in some states

    Most parents will deal with an even larger kid-related expense long before college, and it's a cost that very few of them are as prepared for: day care.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 9, 2014

  • news_twitter.jpg Travelers fly on Air Twitter

    The enlightened age of social media has dawned over the airline industry, casting shadows over telephone call centers and on-site agents. Facebook and Twitter are racking up the friends and followers while the hold music plays on.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • To get quality care, it helps to be the right kind of patient

    I am a family physician. Sometimes I must step out of the comfort of my clinical role and into that of patient or family caregiver. Generally, these trips to the other side of the exam table inspire a fair amount of anxiety.

    April 8, 2014

  • Fast, cheap test can help save lives of many babies

    As Easley did more research into her daughter's death, she learned that a pilot program had started just months earlier at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. (Easley had delivered at a different hospital in the Washington area.) The program's goal was to screen every newborn with a simple pulse oximeter test that can help detect heart problems such as Veronica's, allowing doctors to respond.

    April 8, 2014

AP Video
Business Marquee
College Sports
Pro Sports
Facebook