Dinosaur eggs had colourful eggs with spots, speckles and they were awesome

Assortment of paleognath and neognath bird eggs and a fossil theropod egg

"So there are all the functions that are associated with spotting patterns on eggs that we did not even consider for dinosaur eggs".

MARK HAUBER: We not only know now that dinosaur eggs were colorful, but they were speckled, which is a whole other aspect of diversity.

An extensive analysis of 12 fossilised dinosaur eggshells from Asia, Europe, South and North America have detected a duo of pigments present in the eggs of colourful birds' eggs of a group called eumaniraptorans, which consists of well-known carnivores like Velociraptor and the small feathered dinosaur ancestors of birds. Then, in 2015, Jasmina Wiemann and colleagues reported the presence of two pigments, one blue-green and one red, in oviraptor eggs.

They found no pigments in birds' distant dinosaur relatives, such as the groups that include triceratops and the long-necked diplodocus.

"[This] is a true discovery", says Mark Hauber, an ornithologist who studies the evolution of bird eggs and brooding behaviors at the University of IL in Urbana and was not involved in the research.

Whereas, all other dinosaurs produced plain white eggs, making the evolutionary egg colour of eumaniraptoran dinosaurs more special.

"This completely changes our understanding of how egg colors evolved", said Wiemann, a paleontologist in the Department of Geology & Geophysics at Yale University.

Bird eggs come in a host of lovely 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.

Birds evolved from eumaniraptoran dinos in the Jurassic Period consist of Archaeopteryx, the earliest-known bird that lived about 150 million years ago in Germany.

People who are accustomed to see the eggs alone the hen, it is hard to imagine how diverse is their colouring from other birds, from chocolate brown to emerald green, from brick red to bright blue. Those colors and variations, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, share a common origin. One animal coloration expert not involved in the study, professor Mary Caswell Stoddard at Princeton, thought the research would ignite conversations about dinosaur behavior.

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

Now the researchers have analyzed egg shells from more. "We tried to cover the major branches of dinosaurs to get a good idea for all non-avian dinosaurs", she says.

The team found fossil eggs of many colors and speckling patterns. Were they for camouflage?

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. Birds lay colorful eggs.

JASMINA WIEMANN: This dinosaur is particularly interesting because oviraptors were the first dinosaurs that built open nests.

And, she said, "It's an example of another feature that was really thought to be exclusive among birds". Thermoregulation? Or, as in some parasitic birds, to mimic the appearance of a host's eggs?

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