Biology Letters
Restricted accessEvolutionary biology

Evolution of parental incubation behaviour in dinosaurs cannot be inferred from clutch mass in birds

Geoffrey F. Birchard

Geoffrey F. Birchard

Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University, MSN 5F2, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA

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,
Marcello Ruta

Marcello Ruta

School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, Riseholme Park, Lincoln LN2 2LG, UK

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and
D. Charles Deeming

D. Charles Deeming

School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, Riseholme Park, Lincoln LN2 2LG, UK

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    A recent study proposed that incubation behaviour (i.e. type of parental care) in theropod dinosaurs can be inferred from an allometric analysis of clutch volume in extant birds. However, the study in question failed to account for factors known to affect egg and clutch size in living bird species. A new scaling analysis of avian clutch mass demonstrates that type of parental care cannot be distinguished by conventional allometry because of the confounding effects of phylogeny and hatchling maturity. Precociality of young but not paternal care in the theropod ancestors of birds is consistent with the available data.

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