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Protoceratops eggs (was Egg shapes)



You may be in luck.  I seem to recall that the Natural History Museum of
Los Angeles County has a clutch of _Protoceratops_ eggs on display.  You
may have to call the museum to confirm this, but if you can't acquire the
technical journals in time, you may wish to go on a little field trip to
the museum.  The NHMLAC can be reached at (213) 763-DINO or <info@nhm.org>.
 A _Protoceratops_ egg clutch may also have been among the many eggs
exhibited at Dinofest in Philadelphia last April.  As of this writing, I
cannot find a photograph of a clutch of _Protoceratops_ eggs online or in
any books at hand.

My recollection is that the eggs looked something like the oviraptorid
eggs, but at least 30%-40% shorter and the diameter was relatively even
narrower (i.e. the eggs looked even "skinnier") and a wee bit pointier. 
The eggs were clustered in a round configuration (as if in a big round
bowl), with the eggs subvertical (unlike the horizontally oriented eggs in
the famous "brooding oviraptor" nest).  The arrangement looks something
like the clutch of eggs pictured on page 205 of Louie Psihoyos' _Hunting
Dinosaurs_, though the eggs depicted look larger and plumper than the
_Protoceratops_ eggs I saw.  The eggs stick up nearly vertically, and the
egg clutch configuration lacks an open space in the middle for a parent. 
Even the top layer of eggs were obviously at least partially buried in the
clay-dusted sand of the Gobi, and the clutch was probably covered by
decaying (hence, exothermic) vegetation as well.  Protoceratopian eggs
apparently would not have been brooded in the manner of _Oviraptor_ and
_Troodon_ eggs.  You may take my observations with a grain of salt, as they
are based on memory, but I believe the foregoing is basically correct.

Luckily, although some papers in Currie and Padian's _Encyclopedia of
Dinosaurs_ carry the out-of-date information that the _Oviraptor_ eggs Roy
Chapman Andrews' team discovered in 1923 were _Protoceratops_, K. E.
Mikhailov's paper, "Eggs, Eggshells, and Nests" does include some
information (but no egg clutch photos goldernit!) that may be of use to
you.  

Mikhailov states that "the eggs of hadrosaurs, hypsilophodonts,
protoceratopsians, and theropods were laid in nests composed of soil and
vegetation similar to those of extant alligators, some crocodiles, and even
some birds (Australian megapodids).  These nests seem to be rather
primitive in arrangement in protoceratopsians and more sophisticated in
theropods and hadrosaurs.  The hadrosaurs and therizinosaurs produced
subspherical eggs, whereas protoceratopsians, hypsilophodonts, and
theropods laid strikingly different, elongate eggs that were often set in
subvertical position and organized in two or three stacked circles.  In
many cases, the surfaces of dinosaur eggs are characteristically
ornamented, although the functional significance of this feature is not
clear."  

With respect to the latter comment, I have yet to see a (nonavian) dinosaur
egg which is as smooth as a chicken's egg.  

For a reconstruction of the related _Bagaceratops_ emerging from its egg,
refer to page 110 of the May 1996 _National Geographic_ magazine, from
Philip J. Currie's cover story, _The Great Dinosaur Egg Hunt_.  If you
prefer, you can also view this image at the National Geographic Society web
site at
<www.nationalgeographic.com/dinoeggs/museum/hatchlings/hatchlings3.html>. 
I can't vouch for the accuracy of the egg model, but you can at least see
that it is elongate.

Hope this helps!

I also sincerely hope that any hatching dinosaurs depicted in future motion
pictures are given quite some time to recover from the ordeal of hatching
before launching into a full gallop!  Even a precocial bird hatchling tends
to be tired in the short term.  (_Godzilla_ babies, are you paying
attention)?  The acquisition of the English language should take even
longer.  ;^)  But I digress...

-- Ralph Miller III     gbabcock@best.com