As strange as it might be to imagine, dinosaurs would have slept. Would they lie down, or sleep standing up? Would they take quick rests or long slumbers? We don’t really know the answers. But there is one dinosaur whose sleep habits are well understood: the tiny puppy-sized troodontid theropod Mei long, a close relative of birds.
Two skeletons of this 125-million-year-old dinosaur have been found fossilised in a sleeping position (pictured below). It seems as if a volcanic eruption suffocated and buried these dinosaurs while they were napping, similar to how some humans were caught unaware at Pompeii by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
The skeletons are in the same ‘tuck in’ sleeping posture of today’s birds: the body sits on folded limbs and the head is tucked in between the arm and torso. Birds sleep this way to conserve heat in their heads – a necessity for warm-blooded animals. Perhaps this is a sign that some dinosaurs were warm-blooded too.
- How did dinosaurs mate?
- Did dinosaurs lie down?
- How long did it take dinosaur eggs to hatch?
- Were the dinosaurs cold-blooded?
Asked by: Rowena Brosnan, Manchester
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Steve is a professor and palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh and the author of the book The Rise And Reign Of The Mammals (£20, Picador), a 325-million-year odyssey of mammalian evolution and the people who study mammal fossils.