Some dinosaurs had exquisite eggs with colors, spots, speckles

Arrangement of colored oviraptor-like eggs in an oviraptorid nest arrangement

Arrangement of colored oviraptor-like eggs in an oviraptorid nest arrangement

A nesting cassowary-like dinosaur named Beibeilong sinensis in the act of incubating eggs.

Though most of us are familiar with blue-speckled robin's eggs or golden-brown chicken eggs, the sheer range of colors and patterns on bird eggs is wonderful: they can be brick-red, marbled in patterns that look like the surface of the Moon, or covered in squiggly lines like a Jackson Pollock painting.

An analysis of 12 fossilized dinosaur eggshells from Europe, Asia, North America and South America detected the same two pigments present in colourful birds eggs in a dinosaur group called eumaniraptorans, which includes well-known meat eaters like Velociraptor and the small feathered dinosaur ancestors of birds.

According to a study past year, oviraptors, a dinosaur believed to have lived during the late Cretaceous period, laid blue-green eggs which contained the same pigments found in modern bird eggs. Later, the team found the same pigments in other dinosaurs' eggs, as well as evidence that those eggs were speckled, just like modern eggs. "Like feathers and wishbones, we now know that egg color evolved in their dinosaur predecessors long before birds appeared", said Mark Norell, the Macaulay Curator of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History and co-author of the study. Out there, colors and patterns could provide camouflage or help dinosaurs recognize their own eggs.

"This completely changes our understanding of how egg colors evolved", said the study's lead author, Yale paleontologist Jasmina Wiemann.

But really though: A study from previous year found that oviraptors, a dinosaur of the late Cretaceous period, laid blue-green eggs, containing the same pigments as modern bird eggs.

Birds have more in common with dinosaurs than previously thought as new research showed Wednesday they inherited colored eggs directly from their scaly ancestors.

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The team found that the diversity of color and patterns on the eggs of some dinosaurs species matches up surprisingly well with that of modern birds. Researchers found that birds' close dinosaur relatives had eggs with traces of two pigments-a red-brown one and a blue-green one.

"We infer that egg color co-evolved with open nesting habits in dinosaurs", Wiemann said. They all belong to the group of Eumaniraptora, which will include modern birds.

But that was one dinosaur. The researchers will now need a larger sample of eggshells to analyze.

Bird eggs can be amazingly colorful, everything from robin's egg blue to green, even red.

Different nesting environments, as well as nesting behaviors, are thought to influence egg color.

Using Raman spectroscopy, a nondestructive analytic tool, Wiemann looked for the molecular signatures of protoporphyrin and biliverdin in the oviraptor eggshells. And the presence of speckling raises the possibility there may have been nest parasites long before the appearance of birds - the cuckoo dinosaur. Birds with white eggs today, such as ostriches, parrots, and some domestic chickens, must have later lost the trait of coloring their eggs through evolution, she says.

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