Speckled bird egg - but the dinosaurs did it first. It's the textured gray fossil on the far right, surrounded by (clockwise from bottom right) a green cassowary egg, a blue-gray emu egg, and a white alligator egg. But, he says, the fact that we are even beginning to discuss the color of eggs more than 66 million years old is "pretty dang wonderful".
"Colour eggs have been considered a unique bird characteristic for over a century", said Mark Norell, the Macauly Curator of Palaeontology at the American Museum of Natural History.
"We infer that egg color co-evolved with open nesting habits in dinosaurs", Wiemann explained.
Picture a bird egg: Perhaps it's the cocoa brown of a free-range chicken. If it's a quail egg, it has inky speckles. Scientists have long believed that this variation in eggshell appearance evolved relatively recently in modern birds, because crocodiles, our feathered friends' closest living relatives, lay eggs that are completely white. Two, some parent birds use spot patterns to recognize their own eggs if they live in large colonies (or to prevent freeloading birds, like cuckoos, from sneaking their eggs into a brood).
PARIS, Nov 1 ― Birds have more in common with dinosaurs than previously thought as new research showed yesterday they inherited coloured eggs directly from their scaly ancestors.
Birds, odd as it seems, are living dinosaurs, the last of a lineage that otherwise went extinct 66 million years ago. So she and some colleagues studied 66-million-year-old egg fossils, searching for the two pigments - a red one and a blue one - that are known to mix and match in bird eggs, creating all of the lovely colors.
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Different nesting environments, as well as nesting behaviors, are thought to influence egg color. The method requires no destruction of fossils, instead bouncing a laser off the surface of the eggshells to betray their molecular makeup, including whether they carried traces of the two pigments known to color modern eggshells.
As the researchers write today in Nature, the fact that they found colored eggs in so many carnivorous theropod dinosaurs that are closely related to birds-and exactly the same method of eggshell pigmentation-means colored eggs evolved "deep within the dinosaur tree and long before the spectacular radiation of modern birds", likely more than 150 million years ago.
Bird eggs come in a host of handsome colors and patterns, including the coffee-colored swirls of prinia eggs, the deep green of emu eggs, and the brilliant blue of the eggs laid by the humble robin.
Now, this study shows that if we want to truly understand egg coloration, we have to do so in the context of dinosaurs, not birds.
Other features which were once assumed to have originated in birds, like wishbones and feathers also came from their dinosaur forebears, Norell said. The biliverdin was able to find in the remains of eggs of seven different dinosaurs. Given the analytical methods from other scientific disciplines now available for work on fossils, "It's an unbelievable time to be a paleontologist", she says.