A nursery of bizarre-looking dinosaurs known as therizinosaurs has been found in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.
The nesting colony contained at least 17 clutches of eggs.
"Not only is this the largest colony of nonavian theropods, but this is the best documented site," said study co-author Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, a vertebrate paleontologist at Hokkaido University in Japan, who presented the findings here at the 73rd annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology conference.
The finding suggests the odd little creatures were social animals.
Therizinosaurs, which lived about 70 million years ago, sported huge, round guts; stumpy legs; a long neck; and a turtlelike head and beak.
Despite being members of the carnivorous group known as theropods — which includes the deadly king of the predators Tyrannosaurus rex — the waddling dinosaurs were herbivores. They also had enormous Edward Scissorhands-like, three-digit claws that may have been used to grasp branches and scrape up plant material, similar to the way bamboo-eating pandas do today.
Kobayashi and his colleagues discovered the nest while in southeastern Mongolia in 2011. On the last day of their trip, they decided to leave the area they were excavating known for therizinosaur bones to instead examine another bone bed nearby.
"There aren't many bones from this formation, so we didn't expect to find anything good," Kobayashi told LiveScience.
As the sun was setting, a guide pointed out an eggshell, and the team soon found one nest site right next to their car. Further investigation revealed four more nest sites. The following year, they returned and excavated a total of 17 clutches, for a total of about 75 eggs.