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In the paleontology popularity contest, studying the social life of dinosaurs is on the rise.
A new publication on the bird-like dinosaur Avimimus, from the late-Cretaceous suggests they were gregarious, social animals—evidence that flies in the face of the long-held mysticism surrounding dinosaurs as solo creatures.
“The common mythology of dinosaurs depicts solitary, vicious monsters running around eating everything,” explains Gregory Funston, PhD student and Vanier scholar at the University of Alberta. “Our discovery demonstrates that dinosaurs are more similar to modern animals than people appreciate. Although the players are different, this evidence shows that dinosaurs were social beings with gregarious behaviour who lived and died together in groups.”
The discovery comes from a site in Mongolia, first encountered by paleontologists a decade ago. The site contained thousands of shards of destroyed bone, belying the telltale evidence of a previous discovery by fossil poachers. After conducting additional field work, scientists discovered a bonebed with an assemblage of Avimimus dinosaurs, who were extremely rare prior to this discovery.
Funston, who has traveled to Mongolia several times to work on the material, explains that though it is common knowledge that modern birds form flocks, this is the first evidence of flocking behavior in bird-like dinosaurs.