Magazine article Science News

Egg-Citing Discovery: Dinosaur Fossil Includes Eggshells

Magazine article Science News

Egg-Citing Discovery: Dinosaur Fossil Includes Eggshells

Article excerpt

For the first time, scientists have found eggs with shells inside a dinosaur fossil, strengthening previous conjectures about the ancient reptiles' reproductive physiology.

The dinosaur remains were unearthed in southern China from petrified sediments laid down between 100 million and 65 million years ago. The fragmentary fossil includes six back vertebrae, two adjacent tail vertebrae, and other bones from the dinosaur's pelvic area, says Tamaki Sato of the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

The remains were too scant to assign to a particular species but enough for Sato and her colleagues to identify the creature generally as an oviraptorosaur, a member of a group of dinosaurs that includes the feathered Caudipteryx (SN: 8/19/00, p. 119) and the vegetarian Incisivosaurus (SN: 9/21/02, p. 179). The newfound specimen probably would have measured about 3 meters from head to tail.

It's crystal clear that the creature was a female. Inside its pelvis, paleontologists found two 17-centimeter-long, potato-shaped eggs, complete with shells. Because the eggs nearly filled the dinosaur's pelvic cavity, they were ready to be laid, says Sato. The soft tissues inside eggs at that stage of development wouldn't have readily fossilized, so the shells are probably all that's preserved. Sato and her colleagues describe the fossil find in the April 15 Science.

The pelvis-filling volume of the eggs also suggests that the dinosaur could carry only two eggs at a time, says Sato. …

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