May 15, 2013 — A study into the brooding behaviour of birds has revealed their dinosaur ancestors shared the load when it came to incubation of eggs.
Research into the incubation behaviour of birds suggests the type of parental care carried out by their long extinct ancestors.
The study aimed to test the hypothesis that data from extant birds could be used to predict the incubation behaviour of Theropods, the group of carnivorous dinosaurs from which birds descended.
The paper, out today in Biology Letters, was co-authored by Dr Charles Deeming and Dr Marcello Ruta from the University of Lincoln's School of Life Sciences and Dr Geoff Birchard from George Mason University, Virginia.
By taking into account factors known to affect egg and clutch size in living bird species, the authors -- who started their investigation last summer at the University of Lincoln's Riseholme campus -- found that shared incubation was the ancestral incubation behaviour. Previously it had been claimed that only male Theropod dinosaurs incubated the eggs.
Dr Deeming said: "In 2009 a study in the journal Science suggested that it was males of the small carnivorous dinosaurs Troodon and Oviraptor that incubated their eggs. Irrespective of whether you accept the idea of Theropod dinosaurs sitting on eggs like birds or not, the analysis raised some concerns that we wanted to address. We decided to repeat the study with a larger data set and a better understanding of bird biology because other palaeontologists were starting to use the original results in Science in order to predict the incubation behaviour of other dinosaur species. Our analysis of the relationship between female body mass and clutch mass was interesting in its own right but also showed that it was not possible to conclude anything about incubation in extinct distant relatives of the birds."