Ontogenetic changes in the bone histology of Maiasaura peeblesorum are revealed by six relatively distinct but gradational growth stages: early and late nestling, early and late juvenile, sub-adult, and adult. These stages are distinguished not only by relative size but by changes in the histological patterns of bones at each stage. In general, the earliest stages are marked by spongy bone matrix with large vascular canals. Through growth, the cortical bone differentiates into fibro-lamellar tissue that tends to become more regularly layered in the outer cortex. By the sub-adult stage, lines of arrested growth (LAGs) begin to appear regularly. Resorption lines and substantial Haversian substitution in many long bones also begin to appear at this stage, and the external cortex has a lamellar-zonal structure in some bones that indicates imminent cessation of growth.
Judging by the rates of apposition of similar bone tissues in living amniotes, and by the number and placement of LAGs, these patterns suggest that young Maiasaura nestlings grew at very high rates, and at high and moderately high rates during later nestling, juvenile, and sub-adult stages, slowing to low and very low growth rates in adults (7–9 m total length). The nesting period would have lasted one to two months, late juvenile size (3.5 meters) would have been reached in one or two years, and adult size in six to eight years, depending on the basis for extrapolating bone growth rates.
The histological tissues, patterns, and inferred growth rates of the bones of Maiasaura are completely different from those of living non-avian reptiles, generally similar to those of most other dinosaurs and pterosaurs for which data are available, and much like those of extant birds and mammals. No living reptiles (except birds) grow to adult size at these rates, nor do they show these histological patterns. We conclude that Maiasaura did not grow at all like living non-avian reptiles, which cannot be considered informative models for most aspects of dinosaurian growth (or physiology, to the extent that growth rates reflect metabolism). The use of lines of arrested growth (LAGs) to infer dinosaurian physiology has never been tested and is not supported by independent lines of evidence; their use in calculating age is also more complex than previously suggested and should not be based on single bones.