Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dinosaur eggs

I have decided as of this morning that my fossil collection lacks a dinosaur egg. News just broke yesterday that a large hoard of dinosaur eggs has been found in Chennai, India. Several clusters of 8 eggs 5-8" in diameter have been found in sandy nests 4' wide under a layer of volcanic ash. "Occurrences of unhatched eggs in large numbers at different stratigraphic levels indicate that the dinosaurs kept returning to the same site for nesting," says a member of the survey team. Local officials have cordoned off the site to prevent a repeat of the plunder that happened at a similar dig. In February 2007, 3 amateur archaeologists unearthed a cache of 100 dinosaur eggs (bottom photo) in Indore, India. A scientist from the Smithsonian Institution identified the eggs as coming from sauropods, which measured 40-90' long: "There are thousands of such eggs from the Late Cretaceous [146-66 million years ago] in central India." Distinguished from spherical sauropod eggs (top photo) are the elongated eggs of the birdlike therapods like the oviraptor (3rd photo), typical of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. A fossilized nest of 22 raptor eggs from China (2nd photo) - siezed by U.S. Customs agents in February 2007 - was so well-preserved that embryonic remains were visible inside 19 of them. Not all eggs contain embryos, but if the egg cracked and was buried before it decomposed, it may have been penetrated by groundwater and the contents fossilized by minerals in the water, in which case, "the animal is perfectly packaged in calcite." To read and see more about uncovering the embryos in 3 famous egg specimens, follow this National Geographic link. The 1st recognized dinosaur nest was found in 1923 and dinosaur eggs are known to come from around 200 different sites. The sauropod eggs in the 4th photo were found in Henan Province, China. I will not be able to afford a cluster in a matrix like these, since they command upwards of $3,000, but plan to save up for a single egg - being wary of fossil fraud.
Postscript: I watched a program on the Smithsonian Channel about the "real Indiana Jones" the night of this post. One of the models for the fictional character was the real-life American adventurer Roy Chapman Andrews (1884-1960) - the very man who found that first nest of eggs in 1923!

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