Which dinosaurs laid eggs?

If you’re dino-mad and are looking for ‘dinosaur attractions near me’ this summer, look no further than Dinosaur World Live. Playing in London’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre from 11 August to 3 September, and touring the UK between May and August, this prehistoric show is a fantastic chance to meet some of the most fearsome beasts of the past. Aimed at families with kids aged three and up, it’s one of the best dinosaur attractions in the UK, using stunning puppetry to bring these majestic reptiles to life.


One of the many exciting things you’ll see in the show is a baby giraffatitan hatching and bonding with its mum. But did all dinosaurs lay eggs? Let’s find out.


Dinosaur families

For at least 100 years, palaeontologists (that’s dinosaur scientists to you and me) have been confident that all dinosaurs laid eggs. This is because in addition to the skeletons that have been found across the world, plenty of nesting sites have also been discovered.


It was widely assumed that these eggs had hard shells, like the eggs of a chicken. However, a study by the University of Calgary published in 2020, found that some of the early dinosaurs laid eggs with a soft, leathery shell, much like today’s reptiles. Each dinosaur egg was different, and the shapes and types of shell tell scientists a little about how dinosaurs parented.


Dinosaur parenting

Some dinosaurs, such as oviraptor, appear to have sat on their eggs before they hatched. Eggs were laid two at a time in a clutch of 30 or more, suggesting that the mother would need to either stay with the eggs or return to them on a regular basis. Indeed, researchers have found fossilised oviraptor nests with the skeleton of an adult nearby, and concluded that parents spent time arranging and watching their eggs - much like today’s birds.


Other dinos were less nurturing. One of the earliest known dinosaurs, mussaurus, lived 215 million years ago and laid soft shelled eggs that couldn’t support the weight of a brooding parent. Instead they would have been covered over, like a turtle’s nest, with the hatchlings left to fend for themselves. Similarly, some of the large sauropods such as brachiosaurus are thought to have laid eggs without sticking around to look after them. The eggs were buried  carefully, sometimes in areas of geothermal activity where the warmth from the earth would incubate them, but the newborns would then have to navigate youth alone.


Often, young dinosaurs stayed together to better their chances of survival. There were more eyes to spot predators and search for food, for example, and there is evidence to suggest that adolescent dinosaurs even formed cross-species groups until they matured.


Don’t miss the chance to witness the birth of a baby giraffatitan - visit the Dinosaur World Live website to find a dinosaur event near me or head to Regent’s Park this summer to catch the dinos in action.