Preserved fossil represents oldest record of parental care in group of prehistoric reptiles

Jan 21, 2015

Image Credit: Chuang Zhao

By Science Daily

New research details how a preserved fossil found in China could be the oldest record of post-natal parental care from the Middle Jurassic.

The specimen, found by a farmer in China, is of an apparent family group with an adult, surrounded by six juveniles of the same species. Given that the smaller individuals are of similar sizes, the group interpreted this as indicating an adult with its offspring, apparently from the same clutch.

A fossil specimen discovered by a farmer in China represents the oldest record of post-natal parental care, dating back to the Middle Jurassic.

The tendency for adults to care for their offspring beyond birth is a key feature of the reproductive biology of living archosaurs — birds and crocodilians — with the latter protecting their young from potential predators and birds, not only providing protection but also provision of food.


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2 comments on “Preserved fossil represents oldest record of parental care in group of prehistoric reptiles

  • Various fish care for their young too. Octopus too. We may eventually decide this trait can appear anywhere in the tree of life. Even daphnia hold the next fertilised generation inside themselves.

    In Lake Victoria fish tend to guard their eggs and fry. It is a lake with little plant cover and plenty of predators.

    I will hazard a guess that care happens when predation is high and dispersion is low. It make also be associated with long-lived species.



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  • The tendency for adults to care for their offspring beyond birth is a key feature of the reproductive biology of living archosaurs — birds and crocodilians — with the latter protecting their young from potential predators and birds, not only providing protection but also provision of food.

    There are modern examples of this in fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals so it should be no surprise that nests and young are protected by parents in some species.
    It’s good to have fossils to give us some early dated examples.



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