These tracks tell a story.
They crisscross slabs of sedimentary rock, the spoor so old, they are set in stone.
In a study published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists claim they have found the oldest nesting site and with it, the earliest known nursery.
This nesting ground is more than 100 million years older than previously known sites. And it is believed they were used over long periods of time.
The nests, comprising of eggs, embryos and the spoor, were excavated at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. They belonged to a prosauropod dinosaur Massospondylus, a beast so common, they were like the Impala of their day.
But it is that spoor that reveals that these dinosaurs might have been great parents.
Palaeontologist Dr Adam Yates studied the spoor and found that there was a mix of prints, of different sizes.
There were the tiny spoor of the presumed hatchlings, then bigger prints. Those bigger prints, he explained weren’t adult sized. The hypothesis the authors of the paper put forward is that the larger footprints belonged to bigger baby dinosaurs that had hung around the nesting site. But why?
“They were probably been provisioned by their parents,” explains Adam.
Baby Massospondylus were toothless, so it could be that their parents did what birds do today, they regurgitated food for them.
As they got bigger, perhaps with a set of teeth, they left the nursery and headed out into rough and tumble world of what paleaontologists now classify as the Upper Elliot, an age 200 million years ago.