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A mother Maiasaura watches over her young hatching out from their eggs. Maisaura was a hadrosaur, a duck-billed dinosaur, that lived in North America in the Late Cretaceous Period. It had a flattened snout with a toothless beak and batteries of self-sharpening cheek teeth inside its jaws. Its forelegs were shorter than its hindlegs, and its "hands" had hooves and fleshy pads, showing that Maiasaura usually walked around on four legs, but often stood on just two. On its scaly skin were clusters of tubercles (wart-like projections). There was a small, solid crest above its eyes. The first fossil remains of Maiasaura were discovered alongside those of nests, eggshells and hatchlings—the first evidence that some dinosaurs cared for their young.

A baby Maiasaura inside its egg

Parenting behaviour

Maiasaura means “good mother lizard”, after the discovery that the dinosaur may have reared its hatchlings. Studies of fossilized dinosaur nests, eggs and even the baby dinosaurs inside the eggs gave palaeontologists a great deal of information about how dinosaurs brought up their young. Taken together with study of nesting habits in modern birds and reptiles, they have been able to build up a picture of the dinosaurs’ parenting behaviour.

Nesting colonies

The discovery of Maiasaura's fossilized remains in the mid-1970s, along with fossils of its eggshells, nests and hatchlings, told palaeontologists much about how dinosaurs brought up their young.

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