In 1978, James Kitching discovered two dinosaur embryos in a road-cut talus at Roodraai (Red Bend) in Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa. Kitching assigned the fossilized embryos to the species of long necked herbivores Massospondylus carinatus (longer vertebra) from the Early Jurassic period, between 200 and 183 million years ago. The embryos were partially visible but surrounded by eggshell and rock, called matrix. Kitching said that the eggs were too delicate to remove from the matrix without damage. Twenty-seven years later in 2005, Diane Scott, a member of a team led by Robert Reisz from the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada, uncovered the two almost complete, well-articulated embryos. Scientists have inferred information from the embryos about Massospondylus dinosaurs' growth, development, and behaviors including parental care, gait, and locomotion.
James William Kitching collected and studied fossils of dinosaurs and early humans in the twentieth century. He worked at the Bernard Price Institute for Paleontological Research in South Africa. During the fifty-three years he worked at the institute, Kitching spent eighteen of those in the field uncovering fossils. Kitching recovered fossils of early human ancestors, later called Australopithecines, as well as fossils of dinosaurs and ancient mammals. When he died in 2003, the Bernard Price Institute housed one of the largest fossil collections in the southern hemisphere. Kitching and his team had collected most of those fossils. Additionally, he helped discover Massospondylus embryos, the first dinosaur embryos ever recovered, which enabled scientists to examine dinosaurs before birth.
When scientists discovered a 3.3 million-year-old skeleton of a child of the human lineage (hominin) in 2000, in the village of Hadar, Ethiopia, they were able to study growth and development of Australopithecus afarensis, an extinct hominin species. The team of researchers, led by Zeresenay Alemseged of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, named the fossil DIK 1-1 and nicknamed it Dikika baby after the Dikika research site. The Dikika fossil preserves much of the skull, including the jaw and teeth, which enabled scientists to study the teeth microstructures and to reconstruct the pace at which individuals of the hominin A. afarensis developed.
Dinosaur egg parataxonomy is a classification system that organizes dinosaur eggs by descriptive features such as shape, size, and shell thickness. Though egg parataxonomy originated in the nineteenth century, Zi-Kui Zhao from Beijing, China, developed a modern parataxonomic system in the late twentieth century. Zhao's system, published in 1975, enabled scientists to organize egg specimens according to observable features, and to communicate their findings. The eggshell protects the developing embryo, enables gas exchange between the embryo and the environment external to the egg, and the internal components of the egg provide nutrients for the embryo. Those external and internal features that support a developing embryo leave their mark on eggshells. Dinosaur egg parataxonomy classifies those characteristics and provides insight into dinosaur egg-laying behaviors, reproductive physiology, and embryonic development.
Roy Chapman Andrews traveled the world studying fossils, from mammals to dinosaurs, during the first half of the twentieth century. Andrews worked and collected fossil specimens for the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City, New York. Throughout his career, Andrews collected bones of many animal species, including a previously unknown species of a horned, herbivorous dinosaur, later named Proceratops andrewsi in his honor. Andrews published widely read narratives about his travels and field experiences, such as On the Trail of Ancient Man and Across Mongolian Plains. Andrews led expeditions for the Central Asiatic Expeditions in the Gobi Desert, which recovered many previously unknown fossil specimens. His Central Asiatic team discovered the first scientifically recognized dinosaur eggs, which provided scientists with information about the eggs that dinosaurs produced.
Oviraptor philoceratops was a small bird-like dinosaur that lived about seventy-five million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period. In 1923, George Olsen of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City, New York, discovered the first Oviraptor fossilized skeleton on top of a dinosaur egg nest in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia. Because of the close proximity of dinosaur and nest, when Henry Fairfield Osborn president of the AMNH published on the discovery, he assumed that the Oviraptor had died attempting to steal the eggs. However, since the initial discovery, more Oviraptor adults, eggs, and a well-preserved embryo fossil have confirmed that Oviraptors were parents who sat on their nests, a behavior called brooding common among birds. The fossils of Oviraptor philoceratops, from eggs and embryos to adults, provide evidence about dinosaur growth, development, and reproductive behaviors.
Acid dissolution is a technique of removing a fossil from the surrounding rock matrix in which it is encased by dissolving that matrix with acid. Fossilized bone, though strong enough to be preserved for thousands or millions of years, is often more delicate than rock. Once a fossil is discovered, scientists must remove the fossil from its surroundings without damaging the fossil itself. Scientists have used chemicals to expose vertebrate fossils since the 1930s, and in the late 1990s Terry Manning, an amateur scientist and technician working in England, adapted the technology to dinosaur eggs. Manning used acid dissolution on dinosaur eggs to expose the embryos beneath the rock and fossil shell. Manning's acid dissolution enabled scientists to better study the remains of dinosaur embryos otherwise hidden beneath layers of eggshell and rock, revealing previously unrecorded aspects of dinosaur growth and development.