You’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!
Who is the Maiasaura?
The Maiasaura is a composite skeleton, which means that it was made up of the bones of several Maiasaura. It is 70 percent real fossilized bone. The remaining bones are casts from other Maiasaura that have been discovered.
The Linsters—Cliff, Sandy, and their seven children, Brenda, Cliph, Bob, Wes, Matt, Luke and Megan—are a family of amateur paleontologists who hunt dinosaurs on their summer vacations. They found the fossilized bones that make up the Maiasaura in 1997 in Teton County, Montana. Dinosphere's gorgosaur and one Bambiraptor were found with the Maiasaura. It took five years to excavate the fossilized bones of the Maiasaura.
The Story Behind the Maiasaura
When paleontologist John Horner walked into a small rock shop in Bynum, Montana in 1978, he had no idea what he was about to find. The owners of the rock shop, the Brandvolds, showed him a coffee can full of little fossilized bones. Horner saw at once that they were fossilized baby dinosaur bones and asked where they were found. The Brandvolds showed him the site, which was later named "Egg Mountain" for the hundreds of eggs and nests excavated over many seasons. The Brandvolds, it turns out, had discovered a new species of dinosaur that John Horner named Maiasaura, meaning "good mother lizard." Horner chose that name because he believed the maiasaurs cared for their young.
What made him come up with this hypothesis? There were several clues. He studied baby Maiasaura skeletons and determined they couldn't walk just after hatching because they had soft fossilized bones. Bits of fossilized eggshell were also found, indicating hatchlings stayed in the nest long enough to trample their shells. Horner guessed that the baby Maiasaura probably stayed for about a month in the nest and depended on the adult Maiasaura to bring them food.
Maiasaura were herbivores, which means they ate plants instead of meat. They lived in the Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 80 million years ago, in North America. Maiasaura had a toothless beak for snipping plants and hundreds of teeth designed for chewing and grinding. Although its teeth were frequently worn down by all the chewing, replacing them was not a problem. Each tooth had four or five teeth growing and ready to replace it. Maiasaura needed its teeth so it could keep eating. It had to eat constantly to get enough food to maintain its weight. It probably had to eat many pounds of leaves, berries, seeds and woody plants each day to survive.
Maiasaura migrated, which means they moved to different places during different seasons, in search of food. They traveled in large herds of perhaps 10,000. Traveling in such a large herd helped protect them from predators, such as meat-eating gorgosaurs. Maiasaura were big. Adults were up to 30 feet long (as long as three basketball goals laid end-to-end), 12 to 15 feet tall, and weighed around 3 to 4 tons (6,000 to 8,000 lbs.). They walked on all fours, but they could also stand on two legs for feeding. Maiasaura had long, stiff tails that helped them keep their balance. Like hypacrosaurs, Maiasaura are called duckbill dinosaurs because their mouths are shaped like a duck's bill. Hadrosaur is another name for a duckbill dinosaur.
Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!