Arrangement of colored oviraptor-like eggs in an oviraptorid estate arrangement Jasmina Wiemann / Yale University hide caption change caption Jasmina…
Jasmina Wiemann / Yale University
The rainbow of shades seen in modern bird eggs probably developed in the birds’ dinosaur fathers, who had eggs with colorful and speckled shells.
According to a new study of fossil eggs in the journal Nature ]. Researchers found that the birds near dinosaurs had eggs with traces of two pigments – a maroon and a blue-green. The same pair of pigments mix and match in today’s bird eggs to produce colors ranging from robin’s egg-blue to red to yellow to green.
“There is a great diversity in egg color and patterns. For a long time, people have assumed that egg color is a feature unique to our modern birds,” says Jasmina Wiemann, a paleontologist at Yale University. She says the assumption was based in order to see if the colored eggs could actually go further back in history, she and her colleagues began to look at eggs of oviraptors – a relative of the velociraptor which became famous in the movie Jurassic Park.
“This dinosaur is particularly interesting because oviraptors are the first dinosaurs to build open beans,” she explains, explaining that earlier dinosaurs buried eggs underground where the color would not be expected to make any difference.
“When you begin to build an open living, your eggs are exposed to the environment,” she states. Outside, colors and patterns can give camouflage or help dinosaurs recognize their own eggs.
Within some 66 million years old oviraptor fossils, her team found small concentrations of both pigments that color modern bird eggs. It was exciting. Still, it was just a dinosaur.
Now researchers have analyzed eggshells from more. “We tried to cover the big branches of dinosaurs to get a good idea for all non-avian dinosaurs,” she says.
They found no pigments in the birds’ distant dinosaur families, like the groups that include triceratops and the long
The reddish and blue-green pigments were present in egg shells from the group of dinosaurs that include birds and their close relatives. These pigments were built into the shell in the same sophisticated way that they are in modern birds – and Wiemann thinks this can not be a coincidence.
“We probably have a single evolutionary origin of egg color,” she says.
In addition, the analysis of pigments showed that dinosaur eggs had even stains and stains. And it surprised Mark Hauber, an ornithologist and expert on eggs at the University of Illinois , Urbana-Champaign.
“We do not know now that dinosaur eggs were colorful, but they were speckled, which is a completely different aspect of diversity,” Hauber says.
Dinosaurs may have needed these fine eggs of the same reasons like birds, suggesting that their behavior might have been as complicated.
“Dinosaur eggs could have been camouflaged, they could have been individually recognized, they could have been mimetic,” says Hauber. “So there are all the features that are associated with spotting patterns on eggs that we do not even consider for dinosaur eggs.”
In addition, Hauber says, maybe distinctive colors and markings were associated with any egg-related dinosaur business we have not even thought about. A certain egg color could have been warned to be a predator, he says, “and it may be that mom dinosaurs come back or daddy dinosaur comes back and strikes you.”