The discovery and description of fossil hadrosaur nesting grounds in the Cretaceous of North America provided some of the best evidence for parental care in dinosaurs. The association of fossils at the so-called ‘egg mountain’ site in Montana included eggs, babies and adults of a single species of dinosaur; crushed egg shells indicated that the babies spent time in the nest after hatching and were probably looked after by adults of the same species. This led to the animal being called the ‘good mother lizard’, Maiasaura. It is popularly depicted as an adult towering over a nest of chirping mini-Maiasaura and the Carnegie collection Maiasaura is entirely consistent with this iconic image.
This figure is one of a few Carnegie pieces that comes as a two part set: a single adult is accompanied by a nest including two baby Maiasaura. This set comes in a cardboard package to hold the two pieces together for retail display. I’ll review the two pieces separately but they obviously belong together.
The adult occupies a solid quadropedal stance with the head bowed down and facing the ground. I should rather say that it is facing the nest of baby Maiasaura. The head is distinctly hadrosaurian with a duckbill-like snout. In contrast to some of the more ornately decorated hadrosaurs, Maiasaura does not possess a head crest but has a protruding ridge above the eyes instead, this feature is nicely realised in the Carnegie sculpt. The premaxilla (tip of the snout) is also more downturned in Maiasaura than in many other hadrosaurs. Again, the Carnegie sculpt captures this subtle difference nicely, incidentally though, this has the anthropomorphic affect of making the figure look a little miserable.
A rugged row of blunt spikes runs along the spine of the back and along the tail. Each foot has three large toes (digits 2, 3 and 4) with blunt hooves – digit 1 is lost in all hadrosaurs. Each hand has four fingers. The correct number of digits is therefore present on both the hands and feet. The skin in the figure is wrinkly, not scaly as hadrosaurs are known to have been based on fossil skin impressions. The skin is a nice rusty orange-brown hue with darker brown stripes on the back and brown bands on the arms and legs.
The separate nest is one solid sculpt that consists of a crater-like structure containing two juvenile Maiasaura. I say juvenile rather than babies because they are pretty big and healthy-looking. A few splodges of white in the nest represent crushed eggshells indicating the siblings have been moving around. This fits in with the evidence from ‘egg mountain’. The juveniles are lying down with their heads raised and for some reason they seem to be holding onto each others tails. one has it’s mouth open mid-squeak, perhaps demanding food or attention from mother. The heads are very blunt and the mouths are pointy and beak-like. The nest is green and the little’uns are the same colour as their parent.