Like teenagers today, some juvenile dinosaurs used to hang out together, according to research announced today.
Also like teens, the dinos sometimes hung out in places they shouldn’t have.
The evidence comes from of a herd of young birdlike dinosaurs that died when they became mired in mud on the margins of a lake about 90 million years ago, according to a team of paleontologists that excavated the remains in the Gobi Desert in western Inner Mongolia.
The sudden death of the herd in a mud trap provides a rare snapshot of social behavior in dinosaurs. Composed entirely of juveniles of a single species of ornithomimid dinosaur (Sinornithomimus dongi), the herd suggests that immature individuals were left to fend for themselves when adults were preoccupied, perhaps with nesting or brooding.
“There were no adults or hatchlings,” said University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno.
Within an exquisite pair of the skeletons, prepared for display in Sereno’s lab and airlifted back to China in late February, stomach stones and the animals’ last meals are preserved.
Sinornithomimus and other ornithomimids were theropod dinosaurs, the group that includes tyrannosaurs, but unlike most theropods, ornithomimids were herbivores, research shows. They also were small, big-eyed, fast and resembled ostriches in some ways.