10 Motherly Facts About Maiasaura


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Maiasaura ’s name literally means “good mother lizard.” But was it really all that parental? Read on to find out.

1. It’s the State Fossil of Montana.

The Blue Sky state bestowed this honor upon Maiasaura in 1985.

2. Some Maiasaura Bones Have Been Sent into Outer Space.

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That year also saw NASA propel a Maiasaura bone fragment and partial eggshell into orbit during one of their missions.  Not even Marty McFly had such an eventful 1985. 

3.  Maiasaura is One of the Only Dinos With a Female-Oriented Name.

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Dinosaur suffixes can seem awfully monotonous. By far, the most common name ending is “-saurus,” which descends from the Greek word for “lizard.” For reasons we’ll explore later, paleontologist Jack Horner defied this trend and used the term’s female form—“saura”—when naming Maiasaura.

4. Fossilized Feces Imply that Maiasaura Chowed on Woody Foods.

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Prehistoric poop can tell you a lot. A remarkable fossilized leaving—or “coprolite”—from Wyoming has long been attributed to Maiasaura. Weirdly, this specimen is loaded with wood fragments, revealing that whatever left it had just finished off one barky breakfast.

5. Maiasaura Built Great Nests (Possibly Even in Colonies).

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Several well-preserved, crater-shaped Maiasaura nests have been discovered since 1979. Amazingly, fossilized plant material’s been reported inside a few of them, which presumably helped incubate their eggs. Also, because these structures are often found less than 7 feet apart, Horner has claimed that Maiasaura mothers would flock to communal nesting sites en masse in a kind of dinosaurian maternity ward.  

6. Baby Maiasaura Might Have Been Quite Helpless.

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In addition to nests, dozens of infant Maiasaura skeletons have been discovered. As time has gone by, these wee beasties have proven slightly controversial. Early analysts argued that, thanks to some weak limb bones, they were incapable of walking about on their own and therefore depended upon adults for food. But later studies drew the opposite conclusion, reimagining baby Maiasaura as being much more independent.

7. There’s a Bizarre Notion that Maiasaura Used Reptilian “Milk.”

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Okay, let’s look at the evidence (such as it is). Certain modern birds (like pigeons, doves, and flamingos) secrete a fatty, liquid-like substance called “crop milk” for their hatchlings. Did dinosaurs do this too? Dr. Paul L. Else thinks at least some species might have produced their own crop milk, citing Maiasaura as a probable example.

But while the idea’s certainly interesting, no compelling, non-speculative evidence currently exists to support it, so Else’s hypothesis hasn’t been taken seriously in paleontological circles.

8. Maiasaura ’s Closely Related to Some Mesmerizing Dinosaur Mummies.

Bones are great, but nothing can “flesh out” our understanding of an extinct animal quite like muscles. In recent years, “mummified” specimens of Brachylophosaurus and Edmontosaurus—two of Maiasaura ’s North American cousins—have turned up, complete with fossilized skin, tissue, and even organs.

9. The Site Maiasaura Was Originally Discovered in is Now Called “Egg Mountain” in Its Honor.

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Located near the picturesque city of Choteau, Montana, Egg Mountain’s presently closed to the public. But fear not, paleo-tourists: you can still visit plenty of top-notch museums throughout the state.

10. An Animated Maiasaura Raises a Baby T. rex in You Are Umasou (2010).

Not to nitpick, but Maiasaura technically went extinct roughly 76 million years ago, well before Tyrannosaurus evolved. Still, dinosaur-lovers and anime fans alike will probably get a kick out of this eccentric Japanese film based on a popular book series of the same name.