10 top dinosaur discoveries of 2020

An illustration of Kongonaphon kelly, with human hands for reference. Credit: American Museum of Natural History
An illustration of Kongonaphon kelly, with human hands for reference. Credit: American Museum of Natural History

As we anticipate what the fossil record might reveal in 2021, here’s a look back at ten dinosaur discoveries that surprised and enthralled dinosaur enthusiasts this year.

Some of the key traits that allowed dinosaurs to be such an evolutionary success story—from fuzzy feathers to warm-running metabolisms—may have first evolved in their tiny ancestors. This year experts reported the discovery of a tiny reptile from the Triassic of Madagascar they named Kongonaphon. While not a dinosaur itself, this animal was close to the ancestors of both dinosaurs and related flying reptiles called pterosaurs.

Dinosaurs are often celebrated for being big, fierce and tough. The truth, however, is that they suffered from many of the same injuries and maladies that humans do. A study published this year in The Lancet reported on the first well-documented case of malignant bone cancer in a non-avian dinosaur.

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Think of a dinosaur egg and you’re likely to envision something out of Jurassic Park—a hard-shelled capsule the baby dinosaur has to kick or push its way out of. But research published this year in Nature proposes that many dinosaurs laid soft-shelled eggs. Under close examination, the eggs of the dinosaurs Protoceratops and Mussaurus turned out to be more like the leathery eggs of turtles.

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