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Biggest creatures that ever roamed Earth laid eggs just like birds

More than 250 shells unearthed in India reveal intimate details about the lives of the titanosaurs.

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By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

The biggest creatures that ever roamed Earth laid eggs - just like birds, according to new research.

It adds to evidence our feathered friends really are "living dinosaurs."

More than 250 shells unearthed in India reveal intimate details about the lives of the titanosaurs.

The long-necked beasts included Patagotitan - a replica of which is coming to London in March.

The 70 million-year-old remains were inside 92 fossilized nests - and belonged to six different species.

Layouts suggested the dinosaurs buried their eggs in shallow pits - like crocodiles.

The gigantic plant eaters also had bird-like reproductive physiology.

There was even a case of an "egg inside another egg." This rare phenomenon is seen in chickens today.

It occasionally happens in hens when a formed egg begins traveling backward in the oviduct.

It becomes embedded inside a second egg in the process of developing.

The second egg forms around the first - hence the large size.

The dinosaurs also nested in colonies and laid their eggs in a sequential manner. Both behaviors are also seen in modern birds.

But the close spacing left little room for adults - meaning newborns were left to fend for themselves.

Dozens of clutches included a completely unhatched egg which was almost fully intact.

They were dug up in the Narmada Valley of central India. The dinosaur graveyard stretches more than 600 miles.

It is near the Deccan Traps, a huge expanse of volcanic rock. Eruptions may have played a role in their extinction.

Lead author Dr. Harsha Dhiman, of the University of Delhi, said: "Our research has revealed the presence of an extensive hatchery of titanosaur sauropod dinosaurs in the study area.

"It offers new insights into the conditions of nest preservation and reproductive strategies of titanosaur sauropod dinosaurs just before they went extinct."

Details of dinosaur reproductive habits can be difficult to determine. The nests provide a wealth of data.

They come from a time shortly before the age of dinosaurs came to an end when a city-sized asteroid smashed into what is now the Gulf of Mexico.

Insights gleaned contribute significantly to paleontologists' understanding of how the legendary reptiles lived and evolved.

Co-author Professor Guntupalli Prasad, also from Delhi, said: "Together with dinosaur nests from Jabalpur in the upper Narmada valley in the east and those from Balasinor in the west, the new nesting sites from Dhar District in Madhya Pradesh, covering an east-west stretch of about 1000 km, constitute one of the largest dinosaur hatcheries in the world."

Titanosaurs have been found all over the world.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, suggests they may have been more widespread in India than previously thought.

Dr. Dhiman said: "It points to a possible high diversity in the sub-continent, which is not reflected in body fossils."

A cast of Patagotitan is going on show at the Natural History Museum from 31 March. Measuring some 115ft from nose to tail, the beast weighed up to 70 tons.

The replica skeleton is being loaned by Argentine scientists who excavated its giant bones in 2014.

The 100 million-year-old beast caused a sensation. It was the star of the BBC's Attenborough And The Giant Dinosaur.

Birds evolved from a group of meat-eating dinosaurs called theropods - of which T Rex was a member.

The oldest bird fossils are about 150 million years old. They looked like small, feathered dinosaurs and had much in common.

Their mouths still contained sharp teeth. Over time, birds evolved beaks instead.

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