By Azadeh Ansari, CNN
Everyone knows dinosaurs were gigantic, but they grew from tiny embryos just like birds do. What were these extinct reptiles like at this early stage of development?
Scientists have found some new clues that could shed light on this age-old mystery.
In a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists said they have discovered the oldest known collection of fossilized dinosaur embryos.
"In a way, I think we have set a new standard for dinosaur embryology," said paleontologist Robert Reisz, the lead study author.
Goddard Space Flight Center scientists trying to unlock secrets of the universe have had clues to the prehistoric past resting literally beneath their feet.
Dinosaur tracker Ray Stanford this summer discovered on the center's campus the apparent footprint of a nodosaur, a plant-eater that roamed suburban Washington, D.C., about 110 million years ago.
The track, almost 14 inches wide, is near a sidewalk at the Goddard complex in Greenbelt, Maryland, home to 7,000 employees engaged in astrophysics, heliophysics and planetary science.
"It is sheer poetry," Stanford said on Tuesday. "It is because of the juxtaposition that evokes so much interest."
Stanford late last week gave NASA officials a firsthand look at the print, which was hiding in plain sight all these years.
"It's something that if you knew what you were looking for you would have seen," said Alan Binstock, in charge of cultural and archaeological matters at the facility. "That's what's so amazing."
A paleontologist will do a survey to confirm the find, Binstock said, and will help determine what areas on the fenced campus may need further protection.
"I said this is not the only one," Stanford said. "There has to be many here."
Officials are staying mum on the footprint's exact location.
Stanford, who says he has found about 1,000 dinosaur tracks over the years, said he and a Johns Hopkins University expert are convinced it is an authentic find.
The nodosaur, which hails from the Early Cretaceous period, is named for the bony nodes found on its head, shoulders and body edges.
"They were basically an armored tank with relatively short legs," said Stanford. "They had plates reminiscent of what you would see on the crocodile."
The nodosaur, perhaps 15 feet long from snout to tail, left a print of its right rear foot in thick mud.
"You see the back of the foot, what we call a heel, is lifted up," Stanford said. "It was moving as fast as one of these guys could go. I suggest it was running."
Stanford, 74, of College Park, Maryland, moved to the area in 1986, shortly after he retired in Texas from a nonprofit research group.
In 1994, he and his children found the footprint of an Iguanodon dinosaur near the College Park airport.
"I spotted this thing and I called them over," Stanford said. "I asked 'what does it look like?' In one voice, they said, 'It looks like a dinosaur track.'"
Stanford has since worked with professionals and academics. In September 2011, he co-authored a Journal of Paleontology paper on a new nodosaur species.
Stanford often has lunch with his wife, who works at Goddard.
Several years ago, while driving there, he noticed material he thought might be indicative of the Cretaceous period.
In June, after having lunch at Goddard, Stanford returned to an area where he had found the 3-inch track of a theropod.
He came upon the nodosaur track.
Goddard's Binstock gave his own description of the discovery.
"If someone said, 'What's that?' I would have said an elephant that needs a manicure."
News of the discovery has swept the Goddard campus in recent days.
"Everybody's excited about it," Binstock said. "We're all about discovering new things."
What do you get when you cross a robot with the tail of a leaping lizard? A “Tailbot.”
Research published Wednesday in the journal Nature shows how scientists at the University of California, Berkeley developed an active “tail” for a robotic car called Tailbot. When Tailbot jumps a ramp, its tail stops it from pitching forward and tumbling end-over-end to the ground.
Tailbot is just the latest step forward in the area of bio-inspired robotics, says chief researcher Bob Full, professor of integrative biology.
Like many birds and mammals today, ancient plant-eating dinosaurs migrated hundreds of miles each year as seasons changed, according to a study published online Wednesday by the journal Nature.
Scientists have long suspected that camarasaurus – a 50-foot-long, 20-ton dinosaur that lived 145 million years ago during the late Jurassic Period - migrated.
But what really surprised scientists was how far these big lizards walked: a six-month, 186-mile trek from lowlands to the mountains and then back again.
"That's a lot of walking to do over the course of a year," said the study's lead scientist, Henry Fricke of Colorado College.
The research touches on key questions among dinosaur experts: How did these giant beasts behave, and why were they so big?
Fossilized teeth and chemicals called oxygen isotopes may have unlocked a few clues.
Fricke and his team spent four years analyzing oxygen isotopes in fossilized camarasaurus teeth found in Wyoming and Utah.
Here's a basic idea of how it worked. Water across the ancient landscape contained specific ratios of two isotopes: oxygen 18, which has eight protons and 10 neutrons in its nucleus, and oxygen 16, which has eight protons and eight neutron in its nucleus. Researchers were able to track locations where the dinosaurs drank their water by examining the isotopes built up in the fossilized tooth enamel, like a "tiny tape recorder of what animals were drinking," Fricke said. From this data, scientists tracked the dinosaurs from lowlands in what is now Wyoming and Utah to mountainous regions to the west.
(CNN) - A 65-million-year-old murder mystery just got a bit more mysterious.
Which "family" of asteroids killed earth's dinosaurs?
New data from NASA's orbiting Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) throws doubt on a 2007 theory that blamed the death of the dinosaurs on fragments from an asteroid family called Baptistina, located between Mars and Jupiter.
Baptistina was a huge asteroid which crashed into another space rock millions of years ago, sending mountain-sized pieces flying in various directions.
If you've got a heap of extra cash waiting to be spent on something that will make your friends jealous, you might consider heading to Dallas on Sunday.
Heritage Auctions is offering four dinosaurs, including a "fighting pair" made up of an allosaurus and a stegosaurus, as well as 9-foot-tall shark jaws and more than 200 other curiosities of natural history. And while they may make excellent conversation pieces in an oversized living room, museums would hope that you'd donate them so that more people can see them and scientists can study them further.
FULL STORY from CNN's This Just In.
Following on the heels of the discovery of a new dinosaur species, another interesting piece of research has come out about these prehistoric monsters: Many carnivorous species were nocturnal.
The study, published in the journal Science, casts doubt upon the idea that hundreds millions of years ago (up until about 65 million years ago), most dinosaurs were active only during the day, leading mammals to hide from them in the shade. In fact, several carnivorous dinosaur species were probably sleeping during the day, and would hunt at night, new research suggests.
"It gives us a new view of how to reconstruct the dinosaur era and how the environment in the Mesozoic, the dinosaur era, was actually used," said Lars Schmitz, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California, Davis, and co-author of the study. "That's a totally new component of paleontology."
FULL STORY from CNN's This Just In