First evidence of reproductive adaptation to "island effect" of a dwarf Cretaceous Romanian titanosaur, with embryonic integument in ovo

PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e32051. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032051. Epub 2012 Mar 8.


Background: The Cretaceous vertebrate assemblages of Romania are famous for geographically endemic dwarfed dinosaur taxa. We report the first complete egg clutches of a dwarf lithostrotian titanosaur, from Toteşti, Romania, and its reproductive adaptation to the "island effect".

Methodology/findings: The egg clutches were discovered in sequential sedimentary layers of the Maastrichtian Sânpetru Formation, Toteşti. The occurrence of 11 homogenous clutches in successive strata suggests philopatry by the same dinosaur species, which laid clutches averaging four ∼12 cm diameters eggs. The eggs and eggshells display numerous characters shared with the positively identified material from egg-bearing level 4 of the Auca Mahuevo (Patagonia, Argentina) nemegtosaurid lithostrotian nesting site. Microscopic embryonic integument with bacterial evidences was recovered in one egg. The millimeter-size embryonic integument displays micron size dermal papillae implying an early embryological stage at the time of death, likely corresponding to early organogenesis before the skeleton formation.

Conclusions/significance: The shared oological characters between the Haţeg specimens and their mainland relatives suggest a highly conservative reproductive template, while the nest decrease in egg numbers per clutch may reflect an adaptive trait to a smaller body size due to the "island effect". The combined presence of the lithostrotian egg and its embryo in the Early Cretaceous Gobi coupled with the oological similarities between the Haţeg and Auca Mahuevo oological material evidence that several titanosaur species migrated from Gondwana through the Haţeg Island before or during the Aptian/Albian. It also suggests that this island might have had episodic land bridges with the rest of the European archipelago and Asia deep into the Cretaceous.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Clutch Size
  • Dinosaurs / physiology*
  • Egg Shell / anatomy & histology
  • Egg Shell / ultrastructure
  • Fossils
  • Reproduction / physiology*