The first 3D preserved embryonic skull of a sauropod sauropodomorph
It differs in facial anatomy and size from the sauropod embryos of Auca Mahuevo
It exhibits an unusual monocerotic and stereoscopic face for a sauropod
Heterochronies in cranial ossifications occurred in the evolution of sauropods
The first dinosaur embryos found inside megaloolithid eggs from Auca Mahuevo, Patagonia, were assigned to sauropod dinosaurs that lived approximately 80 million years ago. Discovered some 25 years ago, these considerably flattened specimens still remain the only unquestionable embryonic remains of a sauropod dinosaur providing an initial glimpse into titanosaurian in ovo ontogeny. Here we describe an almost intact embryonic skull, which indicates the early development of stereoscopic vision, and an unusual monocerotic face for a sauropod. The new fossil also reveals a neurovascular sensory system in the premaxilla and a partly calcified braincase, which potentially refines estimates of its prenatal stage. The embryo was found in an egg with thicker eggshell and a partly different geochemical signature than those from the egg-bearing layers described in Auca Mahuevo. The cranial bones are comparably ossified as in previously described specimens but differ in facial anatomy and size. The new specimen reveals significant heterochrony in cranial ossifications when compared with non-sauropod sauropodomorph embryos, and demonstrates that the specialized craniofacial morphology preceded the postnatal transformation of the skull anatomy in adults of related titanosaurians.
Newly discovered rare dinosaur embryos show sauropods had rhino-like horns