Dinosaur Eggs and Babies in the UNESCO GGN Hateg Country Dinosaurs Geopark (Romania)
In 1898, when the first dinosaur eggs were discovered in Hațeg Country (which in 2005 became part of the UNESCO Global Geopark Network), not one dinosaur egg had ever been unearthed either in the vicinity or anywhere in Romania. Twenty years later, tens of sites bearing remnants of dinosaur eggs – of which at least eight are dinosaur incubation sites – had been mapped in Hațeg Country and across Southern Transylvania as a whole. The most famous is the site at Tuștea, situated in the north-western part of the Hațeg Basin, especially well known because of the so-called “Tuștea Puzzle” whereby spherical megaloolithid eggs, almost universally seen as those of titanosaurid sauropods, are associated with hadrosaurid neonates. Tuștea is the only site in Europe to feature the remains of dinosaur neonates alongside eggs and eggshells from the Upper Cretaceous. Research here and in other areas of the Hațeg Basin highlighted the climates and sedimentology of the areas where the eggs were laid roughly 68–70 million years ago, and revealed aspects of nest building and the behavior of dinosaur neonates after hatching. The site’s scientific importance is strengthened by the great diversity of vertebrate fossil discoveries: frogs, lizards, snakes, saurischian and ornithischian dinosaurs, pterosaurs and mammals – 21 taxa in total, ranking Tuștea among the richest paleontological sites in Europe. After 24 years of continuous research primarily by professors and students from the University of Bucharest, the current owner of the land, making use of legislative inconsistencies governing the right to land ownership, forbade further investigation. During this time, the research site has degraded substantially and today requires urgent restorative and conservation measures lest it be lost forever.