Discovery of Fossilized Dinosaur Eggs in Argentina
The difficulty in re-constructing dinosaurs for television and movies lies in the fact that not everything can be preserved. Fossilized bones create the skeleton of a dinosaur, thereby allowing scientists to study how they moved, how big they grew, and how different body parts worked as a whole. But what children see on television: the scaly green skin of the brontosaurs or the brown hair of a mastodon may not hold much fact. Unfortunately, particular physical features cannot be fossilized. Skin, cartilage, hair and other soft tissues usually decay before leaving science no clues to what these dinosaurs truly looked like. The public also cannot know the social behaviors of dinosaurs. Movies generally portray all carnivores like the T-Rex as monstrous bullies while the larger vegetarians all seem slow and peaceful. Up until recently, no hard evidence can be found to help support or dismiss any of these stereo-types. In the barren deserts of Argentina, a team of scientists from the National Geographic Society came across a massive graveyard of fossilized dinosaur eggs. In 1997, Dr. Luis Chiappe and Dr. Lowell Dingus discovered a rare opportunity to finally study the external functions of an ancient creature that contained fossilized teeth imprints, embryos and skin impressions. This unearthing unlocks endless prospects to learn about dinosaur behavior and external attributes, topics which used to be some of the most problematic areas of study. The most remarkable aspect, of course, is how the most delicate of information is found within an egg.
Dinosaur eggs are quite rare to begin with. The first unearthing was on July 31, 1922 by George Olson, later, in 1991, China would also produce eggs; but it was the 1997 discovery that held the first embryonic remains.1 Ultimately, while the discovery of fossilized eggs may be rare, the environment in which they were found was perfect for the process of preservation. Soft tissue is known to easily decay over time, but a natural disaster from 70-90 million years ago helped to preserve the embryo, skin imprints, bone and teeth. After geological research of the area, scientists discovered that streams used to flow through the aptly named “Auca Mahuevo” site. Normally, fossils are found in lakes or land rifts where the bones get imbedded in mud for centuries. In this case, however, the streams flooded the surrounding area, thereby drowning and preserving the underground eggs.
The 6 inched2 size of the eggs immediately indicated that these belonged to the sauropods, a large long-necked herbivore. In the team’s initial article, “Sauropod dinosaur embryos from the Late Cretaceous of Patagonia,” participating scientists describe how they narrowed down the species of saurpods to the titanosaurs. By constantly comparing the evidence to previous studies, the team discovered that “[t]he anatomical information of the bones and...