November 18, 2018

Coloured bird, dinosaur eggs in same evolutionary basket

02 November 2018, 11:15 | Edward Lowe

Coloured bird, dinosaur eggs in same evolutionary basket

Dinosaur eggs came in many colors—just like birds'

Wiesmann, who hopes her study can be used for future research, offered an explanation for how egg colors may have adapted.

Assortment of paleognath and neognath bird eggs and a fossil theropod egg (on the right). The color, size, and pattern of a bird's eggs is often unique to its species, and there's online tools and even entire books dedicated to classifying bird eggs so that bird watchers can easily identify them. "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.

In fact, lay eggs many animals, but different in color only happens in birds. "Our study fundamentally changes our understanding of egg colour evolution, and adds colour to dinosaur nests in the real "Jurassic World".

For an instance, the predator named Deinonychus had a blue egg with brown blotches and the bird-like Oviraptor, famous for its toothless beak, had eggs that were dark blue in colour.

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If you're interested in all the practical advantages of speckled and brightly colored eggs, check out this article.

"We infer that egg color co-evolved with open nesting habits in dinosaurs", Wiemann said. 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).

The rainbow of hues seen in modern bird eggs probably evolved in birds' dinosaur ancestors, which had eggs with colorful and speckled shells.

But really though: A study from a year ago found that oviraptors, a dinosaur of the late Cretaceous period, laid blue-green eggs, containing the same pigments as modern bird eggs. And last year, molecular paleobiologist Jasmina Wiemann of Yale University published the first evidence of dinosaur egg coloration, using chemical analysis to detect two pigments-blue-green biliverdin and red-brown protoporphyrin-in the eggs of a 70-million-year-old parrot-beaked oviraptorosaur called Heyuannia from China.

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"Birds were not the first [egg-layers] to produce coloured eggs", the researchers write. "For two centuries, ornithologists assumed that egg color appeared in modern birds' eggs multiple times, independently". Crocodiles and turtles bury their white eggs, which means they don't need to be camouflaged.

Most likely, it was a single event, even of uncertain mutation, which caused accumulation of biliverdin in the shell and made the eggs for the beginning of blue-green.

"The egg colors of birds reflect characteristic preferences in nesting environments and brooding behaviors", Yale explained. The biliverdin was able to find in the remains of eggs of seven different dinosaurs. But many birds have colored eggshells that camouflage their eggs in nests that are exposed to the elements and predators. Given the analytical methods from other scientific disciplines now available for work on fossils, "It's an incredible time to be a paleontologist", she says.

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