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Ecology - Physics


First Evidence of Reproductive Adaptation to “Island Effect” of a Dwarf Cretaceous Romanian Titanosaur, with Embryonic Integument In Ovo
Published: Thursday, March 08, 2012
Author: Gerald Grellet-Tinner et al.

by Gerald Grellet-Tinner, Vlad Codrea, Annelise Folie, Alessandra Higa, Thierry Smith

Background

The Cretaceous vertebrate assemblages of Romania are famous for geographically endemic dwarfed dinosaur taxa. We report the first complete egg clutches of a dwarf lithostrotian titanosaur, from Totesti, Romania, and its reproductive adaptation to the “island effect”.

Methodology/Findings

The egg clutches were discovered in sequential sedimentary layers of the Maastrichtian Sânpetru Formation, Totesti. The occurrence of 11 homogenous clutches in successive strata suggests philopatry by the same dinosaur species, which laid clutches averaging four ~12 cm diameters eggs. The eggs and eggshells display numerous characters shared with the positively identified material from egg-bearing level 4 of the Auca Mahuevo (Patagonia, Argentina) nemegtosaurid lithostrotian nesting site. Microscopic embryonic integument with bacterial evidences was recovered in one egg. The millimeter-size embryonic integument displays micron size dermal papillae implying an early embryological stage at the time of death, likely corresponding to early organogenesis before the skeleton formation.

Conclusions/Significance

The shared oological characters between the Hateg specimens and their mainland relatives suggest a highly conservative reproductive template, while the nest decrease in egg numbers per clutch may reflect an adaptive trait to a smaller body size due to the “island effect”. The combined presence of the lithostrotian egg and its embryo in the Early Cretaceous Gobi coupled with the oological similarities between the Hateg and Auca Mahuevo oological material evidence that several titanosaur species migrated from Gondwana through the Hateg Island before or during the Aptian/Albian. It also suggests that this island might have had episodic land bridges with the rest of the European archipelago and Asia deep into the Cretaceous.

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