Palaeontologists have identified the oldest known dinosaur embryos, belonging to a species that lived some 190 million years ago. The eggs of Massospondylus, containing well-perserved embryos, were unearthed in South Africa back in 1976.
The creature appears to be an ancestor of the family that includes the long-necked dino once known as Brontosaurus. The study in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology also sheds light on the dinosaurs' early development.
The researchers used the embryos to reconstruct what the dinosaurs' babies might have looked like when they roamed the Earth.
Having studied the fossilised eggs, the team, led by Professor Robert Reisz of the University of Toronto Mississauga in Canada, discovered that the embryos were the oldest ones ever found of any land-dwelling vertebrate.
"This project opens an exciting window into the early history and evolution of dinosaurs," said Professor Reisz.
"Prosauropods are the first dinosaurs to diversify extensively, and they quickly became the most widely spread group, so their biology is particularly interesting as they represent in many ways the dawn of the age of dinosaurs."