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Fossil Dinosaur Eggs Discovered
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November 17, 1998
Fossil Dinosaur Eggs Discovered
Filed at 9:41 a.m. EST
By The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) -- Scientists have found a vast dinosaur nesting site in
Argentina that includes thousands of fossil eggs. Inside egg
fragments, they found the first embryo remains from a major class of
large dinosaurs, and first definite fossils of embryo skin from any
Discoveries from the site should shed light on the early development
of sauropods, a class of plant-eaters with long necks and tails, small
heads and four elephant-like legs that included the biggest animals
ever to walk the Earth.
The badlands site, which covers a square mile, is littered with
dark-gray fossil fragments of round, rough-textured, six-inch eggs.
``You see eggshells everywhere,'' said Luis Chiappe of the American
Museum of Natural History in New York.
The eggs were laid 70 million to 90 million years ago, apparently by
titanosaurs that stretched about 45 feet long. The hatchlings might
have been only about 15 inches long.
>From the embryonic remains, ``we're really getting a look at what
these animals would have looked like to us, and felt like to touch,
when they hatched,'' said Lowell Dingus of the museum.
Chiappe, Dingus and others describe the finds in Thursday's issue of
the journal Nature.
Scientists found so many embryonic remains that it appears catastrophe
struck the nesting ground, keeping many eggs from hatching, Chiappe
said. Floods may have penetrated the porous shells and drowned the
embryos, he said. The flooding also could have carried in layers of
silt that kept the eggs so well-preserved.
The modern-day result are embryonic bones, which look like tiny light
brown flakes surrounded by green mudstone in eggshell fragments, and
dark patches of fossilized skin within the shells.
The haul includes 70 or so shell fragments containing pieces of
fossilized skin, in fingernail-sized patches or smaller, their scales
clearly visible. No complete embryo skeletons were found, but even
finding the collapsed bones is a rarity. Before the new find,
embryonic remains had been identified from only five species of
``If you're a dinosaur paleontologist, then I think it's a pretty
exciting and wonderful discovery,'' said Kenneth Carpenter of the
Denver Museum of Natural History, who was familiar with the work.
For one thing, it knocks down a controversial suggestion that
sauropods gave live birth, Carpenter said. That idea had arisen
because sauropod fossils are common in some older rocks in North
America, yet no remains of eggs had ever been found.
And the sheer number of eggs at the site suggests dinosaurs converged
repeatedly in one place to lay them, Carpenter said. While scientists
have speculated about such behavior, ``we've never had any real good
evidence that's what dinosaurs would do,'' he said.
The discovery also shows that a particular kind of large round
dinosaur egg found in Africa, India, China, Europe and South America
is often from sauropods, Chiappe said. Carpenter said that had been
proposed before because the eggs were so big, but that the new
discovery finally solves the mystery after about 100 years.
The site was discovered a year ago in Neuquen, a province in
"Atheism -- a non-prophet organization"
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