National Geographic : 2015 Jun
Ancient Worlds EXPLORE PHOTO: LIU QINXUE, DALIAN NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM At first glance, a 120-million-year-old fossil from northeastern China appears to be a nest of babies with an older companion, perhaps a sibling babysitter. “I see that as easily as everyone else,” says paleontologist Brandon Hedrick, who studied the unusual group recently. Farmers had excavated the fossil, which is almost three feet across, but they didn’t get surrounding features, such as the edge of a nest, that would help explain what the dinosaurs were doing. The more Hedrick dug into the details, the less this looked like a bunch of nest mates. He offers two other possibilities. The dinosaurs may have been hiding in a burrow that collapsed and crushed them. Their species—named Psittacosaurus, or “parrot lizard,” for their large beaks—perhaps lived in large herds. “They were extremely successful,” he says. “They were found across Asia, and all the car- nivorous dinosaurs that were living at the time must have loved to eat them.” But there’s a more likely scenario, given the positions of the bodies and the nature of the rock surrounding them: The creatures were victims of a mudslide that suddenly swept them up and carried them to their death. — A . R. Williams Dinosaur Mystery Dissecting a Dino? Watch T. Rex Autopsy on the National Geo- graphic Channel on June 7, 9 p.m . ET/PT.