Maiasaura

Maiasaura

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Maiasaura is a large duck-bill
Hadrosaurid
Hadrosaurids or duck-billed dinosaurs are members of the family Hadrosauridae, and include ornithopods such as Edmontosaurus and Parasaurolophus. They were common herbivores in the Upper Cretaceous Period of what are now Asia, Europe and North America. They are descendants of the Upper...

ed dinosaur
Dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

 genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 that lived in the area currently covered by the state of Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

 in the Upper Cretaceous
Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

 Period (Campanian
Campanian
The Campanian is, in the ICS' geologic timescale, the fifth of six ages of the Late Cretaceous epoch . The Campanian spans the time from 83.5 ± 0.7 Ma to 70.6 ± 0.6 Ma ...

), about 74 million years ago.

Description



Maiasaura was large, attaining an adult length of about 9 metres (29.5 ft) and had the typical hadrosaurid
Hadrosaurid
Hadrosaurids or duck-billed dinosaurs are members of the family Hadrosauridae, and include ornithopods such as Edmontosaurus and Parasaurolophus. They were common herbivores in the Upper Cretaceous Period of what are now Asia, Europe and North America. They are descendants of the Upper...

 flat beak and a thick nose. It had a small, spiky crest in front of its eyes. The crest may have been used in headbutting contests between males during the breeding season.

This dinosaur was herbivorous
Herbivore
Herbivores are organisms that are anatomically and physiologically adapted to eat plant-based foods. Herbivory is a form of consumption in which an organism principally eats autotrophs such as plants, algae and photosynthesizing bacteria. More generally, organisms that feed on autotrophs in...

. It walked both on two (bipedal) or four (quadrupedal) legs and appeared to have no defense against predators, except, perhaps, its heavy muscular tail and its herd
Herd
Herd refers to a social grouping of certain animals of the same species, either wild or domestic, and also to the form of collective animal behavior associated with this or as a verb, to herd, to its control by another species such as humans or dogs.The term herd is generally applied to mammals,...

 behaviour. These herds were extremely large and could have comprised as many as 10,000 individuals. Maisaura lived in an inland habitat.

Discovery



Maiasaura was discovered by Laurie Trexler and described by dinosaur paleontologist
Paleontology
Paleontology "old, ancient", ὄν, ὀντ- "being, creature", and λόγος "speech, thought") is the study of prehistoric life. It includes the study of fossils to determine organisms' evolution and interactions with each other and their environments...

 Jack Horner
Jack Horner (paleontologist)
John "Jack" R. Horner is an American paleontologist who discovered and named Maiasaura, providing the first clear evidence that some dinosaurs cared for their young. He is one of the best-known paleontologists in the United States...

 (paleontologic advisor for the Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park (film)
Jurassic Park is a 1993 American science fiction adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Martin Ferrero, and Bob Peck...

movies) and Robert Makela. He named the dinosaur after Marion Brandvold's discovery of a nest with remains of eggshells and babies too large to be hatchlings. These discoveries led to others, and the area became known as "Egg Mountain", in rocks of the Two Medicine Formation
Two Medicine Formation
The Two Medicine Formation is a geologic formation, or rock body, that was deposited between 83.5 ± 0.7 Ma to 70.6 ± 0.6 Ma , during Campanian time, and is located in northwestern Montana...

 near Choteau
Choteau, Montana
Choteau is a city in and the county seat of Teton County, Montana, United States. It lies along U.S. Routes 89 and 287 about east of the Rocky Mountains, near Flathead National Forest, the Rocky Mountain Division of Lewis and Clark National Forest, and Glacier National Park. The population was...

 in western Montana. This was the first proof of giant dinosaurs raising and feeding their young. Over 200 specimens, in all age ranges, have been found. The announcement of Maiasaura's discovery attracted renewed scientific interest to the Two Medicine Formation
Two Medicine Formation
The Two Medicine Formation is a geologic formation, or rock body, that was deposited between 83.5 ± 0.7 Ma to 70.6 ± 0.6 Ma , during Campanian time, and is located in northwestern Montana...

 and many other new kinds of dinosaurs were discovered as a result of the increased attention. Choteau Maiasaura remains are found in higher strata than their Two Medicine River
Two Medicine River
The Two Medicine River is a tributary of the Marias River, approximately 60 mi long, in northwestern Montana in the United States....

 counterparts.

Reproduction



Maiasaura lived in herds and it raised its young in nesting colonies. The nests in the colonies were packed closely together, like those of modern seabirds, with the gap between the nests being around 7 metres (23 ft); less than the length of the adult animal. The nests were made of earth and contained 30 to 40 eggs laid in a circular or spiral pattern. The eggs were about the size of ostrich
Ostrich
The Ostrich is one or two species of large flightless birds native to Africa, the only living member of the genus Struthio. Some analyses indicate that the Somali Ostrich may be better considered a full species apart from the Common Ostrich, but most taxonomists consider it to be a...

 eggs.

The eggs were incubated by the heat resulting from rotting vegetation placed into the nest by the parents, rather than a parent sitting on the nest. Upon hatching, fossils of baby Maiasaura show that their legs were not fully developed and thus they were incapable of walking. Fossils also show that their teeth were partly worn, which means that the adults brought food to the nest.

The hatchlings grew from a size of 16 to 58 in (40.6 to 147.3 cm) long in the span of their first year. At this point, or perhaps after another year, the animal left the nest. This high rate of growth may be evidence of warm bloodedness. The hatchlings had different facial proportions from the adults, with larger eyes and a shorter snout. These features are associated with cuteness
Cuteness
Cuteness is the appeal commonly associated with neoteny.- Cuteness effects :Humans respond favorably to a neotenized appearance A neotenized appearance elicits sympathy from humans as well as protective urges...

 and are common among animals that are dependant on their parents for survival during the early stages of life.

Contemporaries


In the Two Medicine Formation, Maiasaura lived alongside the tyrannosaurid
Tyrannosauridae
Tyrannosauridae is a family of coelurosaurian theropod dinosaurs which comprises two subfamilies containing up to six genera, including the eponymous Tyrannosaurus. The exact number of genera is controversial, with some experts recognizing as few as three...

 Daspletosaurus
Daspletosaurus
Daspletosaurus is a genus of tyrannosaurid theropod dinosaur that lived in western North America between 77 and 74 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous Period. Fossils of the only named species were found in Alberta, although other possible species from Alberta and Montana await...

, the oviraptorosauria
Oviraptorosauria
Oviraptorosaurs are a group of feathered maniraptoran dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period of what are now Asia and North America. They are distinct for their characteristically short, beaked, parrot - like skulls, with or without bony crests atop the head...

n Chirostenotes
Chirostenotes
Chirostenotes is a genus of oviraptorosaurian dinosaur from the late Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada. The type species is Chirostenotes pergracilis. Some researchers recognize a second species, C...

, the troodontid
Troodontidae
Troodontidae is a family of bird-like theropod dinosaurs. During most of the 20th century, troodontid fossils were few and scrappy and they have therefore been allied, at various times, with many dinosaurian lineages...

 Troodon
Troodon
Troodon is a genus of relatively small, bird-like dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period . Discovered in 1855, it was among the first dinosaurs found in North America...

, the dromaeosaurids
Dromaeosauridae
Dromaeosauridae is a family of bird-like theropod dinosaurs. They were small- to medium-sized feathered carnivores that flourished in the Cretaceous Period. The name Dromaeosauridae means 'running lizards', from Greek dromeus meaning 'runner' and sauros meaning 'lizard'...

 Bambiraptor
Bambiraptor
Bambiraptor is a Late Cretaceous, 75 million year old, bird-like dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur described by scientists at the University of Kansas, Yale University, and the University of New Orleans....

and Saurornitholestes
Saurornitholestes
Saurornitholestes is a genus of carnivorous dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur from the late Cretaceous of Alberta, Montana and New Mexico....

, the enantiornithe
Enantiornithes
Enantiornithes is an extinct group of primitive birds. They were the most abundant and diverse avialans of the Mesozoic. Almost all retained teeth and clawed fingers on each wing, but otherwise looked much like modern birds externally. Over 50 species of Enantiornithines have been named, but some...

 bird Avisaurus
Avisaurus
Avisaurus is a genus of enantiornithine bird from the Late Cretaceous of North America.Two species are known; the type species A. archibaldi and A. gloriae...

, the nodosaurid
Nodosauridae
Nodosauridae is a family of ankylosaurian dinosaurs, from the Late Jurassic to the Late Cretaceous Period of what are now North America, Asia, Antarctica and Europe.-Characteristics:...

 Edmontonia
Edmontonia
Edmontonia was an armoured dinosaur, a part of the nodosaur family from the Late Cretaceous Period. It is named after the Edmonton Formation , the unit of rock it was found in.-Description:...

, the ankylosaurid
Ankylosauridae
An ankylosaurid is a member of the Ankylosauridae family of armored dinosaurs that evolved 125 million years ago and became extinct 65 million years ago during the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event...

 Euoplocephalus
Euoplocephalus
Euoplocephalus was one of the largest genera of ankylosaurian dinosaurs, at about the size of a small elephant. It is also the ankylosaurian with the best fossil record, so its extensive spiked armor, low-slung body and great club-like tail are well documented.-Description:Among the...

, the ceratopsids
Ceratopsidae
Ceratopsidae is a speciose group of marginocephalian dinosaurs including Triceratops and Styracosaurus...

 Achelousaurus
Achelousaurus
Achelousaurus is a genus of centrosaurine ceratopsid dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous Period of what is now North America, dated to 74 million years ago...

, Brachyceratops
Brachyceratops
Brachyceratops is a dubious genus of ceratopsian dinosaur known only from partial juvenile specimens dating to the late Cretaceous Period of Montana, United States....

, Einiosaurus
Einiosaurus
Einiosaurus is a medium-sized centrosaurine ceratopsian from the Upper Cretaceous of northwestern Montana. The name means 'buffalo lizard', in a combination of Blackfeet Indian and Latinized Ancient Greek; the specific name Einiosaurus is a medium-sized centrosaurine (“short-frilled”)...

, and Styracosaurus ovatus
Styracosaurus
Styracosaurus was a genus of herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur from the Cretaceous Period , about 76.5 to 75.0 million years ago...

, the hypsilophodont
Hypsilophodont
Hypsilophodonts were small ornithopod dinosaurs, regarded as fast, herbivorous bipeds on the order of 1–2 meters long . They are known from Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand, North America, and South America, from rocks of Middle Jurassic to late Cretaceous age...

 Orodromeus
Orodromeus
Orodromeus is a genus of herbivorous ornithopod dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of North America.-Discovery and naming:...

, and the hadrosaurids Hypacrosaurus stebingeri
Hypacrosaurus
Hypacrosaurus was a genus of duckbill dinosaur similar in appearance to Corythosaurus. Like Corythosaurus, it had a tall, hollow rounded crest, although not as large and straight...

and Prosaurolophus
Prosaurolophus
Prosaurolophus is a genus of hadrosaurid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of North America. It is known from the remains of at least 25 individuals belonging to two species, including skulls and skeletons, but it remains obscure...

. Hypacrosaurus
Hypacrosaurus
Hypacrosaurus was a genus of duckbill dinosaur similar in appearance to Corythosaurus. Like Corythosaurus, it had a tall, hollow rounded crest, although not as large and straight...

coexisted with Maiasaura for some time, as Hypacrosaurus remains have been found lower in the Two Medicine Formation than was earlier known. The discovery of Gryposaurus latidens in Maiasaura's range has shown that the border between hypothesized distinct faunas in the upper and middle is less distinct than once thought. There seems to be a major diversification in ornithischian taxa after the appearance of Maiasaura within the Two Medicine Formation. The thorough examination of strata found along the Two Medicine River (which exposes the entire upper half of the Two Medicine Formation) indicates that the apparent diversification was a real event rather than a result of preservational biases.