Thanks to the study and the research they were doing, Erickson and his team were able to bring about solid evidence that suggests how long Hypacrosaurus and Protoceratops, and dinosaurs like them, took to hatch.
Erickson himself has said that it’s the first time such evidence has been found, and it’s a huge leap forward in what we know about the development and growth of certain breeds of dinosaurs. But what exactly did we learn from this study?
In fact, according to Erickson, the lines of dentin on each tooth easily became clear and visible. When he was speaking with the Washington Post, he said: “I knew we were in business.”
Erickson had determined it was possible for the team to determine how long the embryos had been alive. In an FSU statement, Erickson explained: “We could literally count [the dentin] to see how long each dinosaur had been developing.”
Excitement grew around the project as Erickson and his team of researchers got to work.
In the same FSU statement, Erickson's co-author Darla Zelenitsky explained: “Time within the egg is a crucial part of development. But this earliest growth stage is so poorly understood because dinosaur embryos are rare. Embryos might be able to tell us how dinosaurs developed and grew very early on in life and if they are more similar to birds or reptiles in these respects.”
The team was able to calculate the amount of time during the incubation period the dinosaur spends developing teeth: close to forty percent.
The team was also able to surmise the fact that the dinosaurs took a long time to hatch – Erickson's team estimates these dino eggs incubated for around double the time compared to avian eggs of the same size. But Erickson knew there was more information to find, so he looked at the two types of embryos individually.
When analyzing the two types of eggs he had access to, Erickson discovered some interesting facts. The team discovered that the smaller Hypacrosaurus would have taken somewhere around three months to hatch, while the larger Protoceratops probably would have spent twice that — six months — developing before hatching.
This study is the first time that researchers have been able to pinpoint with any degree of specificity the incubation periods for non-avian dinosaurs. But that's not even everything Erickson and his team discovered.