Dinosaurs, while they were definitely some of the greatest creatures to ever rule our planet, also happened to live very brutal lives. Their existence was pretty much a mix of roaming and attempting to eat or to not get eaten. Understandably, many of the creatures died very young, soon after birth.
And just like it happens nowadays in nature, there were countless nursing habits between the creatures. While some dinosaurs took care of their young until they were old enough to fend for themselves, others left them to fend for themselves very soon after they hatched from their eggs. But biology generally took care of that.
A sauropod, as well as one of the largest dinosaurs to ever walk the face of the Earth, the Rapetosaurus was a herbivorous animal in the same group as the Apatosaurus – the titanosaurs. While you might know the Apatosaurus by its old name, the Brontosaurus (which never existed, by the way), you most likely never heard about the Rapetosaurus because of its very poorly thought-out name. It doesn’t bode all that well in the media is all I’m saying.
Anyway, researchers found some very interesting fossils belonging to a baby Rapetosaurus, and they uncovered some pretty shocking facts regarding the creatures’ rearing habits. These discoveries came as a result of a team of researchers pinning down the age of the baby titanosaur from an old rock in Madagascar estimated to be around 70 to 66 million years old.
Built like tanks
By analyzing the bone structure of the tiny dinosaur, the team determined that the creature was somewhere around 39 to 77 days old when it died. But that’s not the real shocker. The real shocker is that the analysis suggests that the animal grew from 7.5 pounds at birth (3.4 kg) to 88 pounds (40 kg) only a few weeks later.
Additionally, the bone structure had already starting rearranging itself to more closely resemble that of an adult. This means that the creatures were designed to start changing their bodies to support their adult weight before they even turned a month old. Plus, evidence showed that the baby dinosaur had already roamed for a while quite actively before it died.
Living on their own
Actually, the bones even showed what killed the creature –starvation. That, combined with all the other factors the team of scientists discovered, led them to believe that the Rapetosaurus left its young to fend for themselves pretty much as soon as they were hatched.
While this might have some pretty traumatizing implications in regards to “The Land Before Time”, it also showcases how different the rearing behaviors of dinosaurs actually were. Plus, it also showcases the hugely diverse process of evolution, as we are shown how a baby started changing its bones to supports its soon-to-come immense adult weight.
Image source: Wikimedia