Article: Unique maniraptoran egg clutch from the Upper Cretaceous Two Medicine Formation of Montana reveals theropod nesting behaviour
Darla K. Zelenitsky and François Therrien
Egg clutches of non-avian maniraptoran theropods (Dinosauria) are rare, particularly in North America where those of Troodon formosus are the only maniraptoran clutches known. Here we describe a new partial maniraptoran clutch and nesting trace referred to Montanoolithus strongorum oogen. et oosp. nov. (Montanoolithidae oofam. nov.), from the Upper Cretaceous Two Medicine Formation of Montana. Based on a cladistic analysis of reproductive traits, we infer that this clutch belonged either to a caenagnathid or to a dromaeosaurid, which makes it the first clutch known of either taxon. This specimen preserves impressions and eggshell fragments of at least five eggs on a nest structure. The eggs are asymmetrical, paired, and lay radially in a ring configuration on the sloped sides of a bioturbated, flat-topped sandstone mound. Geology of the locality indicates the female nested in a poorly-vegetated area of freshly deposited sand, possibly near an active river channel. This clutch reveals that the egg-layer of Montanoolithus strongorum had a unique suite of reproductive characteristics and nesting behaviours among maniraptorans.