Dinosaur Eggs

Today’s winning team in our 9th Annual Young Producers Contest have an egg-cellent story to tell you about dinosaur eggs.

Today’s winners are second-graders Riley Hill-Kartel, Azalea Scott, and Kavya Deevi from Champaign, Illinois. In reality, apatosaurus — also called brontosaurus — and saltopus didn’t exist at the same time. But Riley, Azalea and Kavya portray an imaginary conversation between them — in a way that second-graders, and even some of us big kids, can relate to.

AS: Hi, Mrs. Brontosaurus. What are you doing today?

RHK: Well, hi there Mrs. Saltopus. I’m just taking care of my jumbo-sized eggs. They are about ten to twelve inches long. Do you have any eggs in your nest?

AS: Yes, I do! My eggs are about the size of a chicken or turkey egg. It’s a good thing our eggs aren’t as big as we dinosaurs are!

RHK: That’s right! If they were too big, the shells would have to be thick. If the shells were too thick, it would suffocate the babies.

AS: I hope my babies are safe in this nest in the ground. My eggs are laid in a circle, but I hear some dinosaurs lay their eggs in an oval or in rows.

RHK: You are so small, you and your eggs could fit in a medium-sized suitcase.

AS: It sounds like my babies are hatching — talk to you later!

Additional comments about today’s show from Brian Chatterton, who is an expert in paleontology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada:

Ten to 12 inches for the Apatosaurus eggs is a little on the large side — but possible. Known sauropod eggs are laid in arcs or straight lines, and there is no evidence that the mother did not walk away after laying a clutch of eggs . . . no known evidence of sauropod rearing of young and guarding of nests (there is some evidence for that in duck billed dinosaurs known as hadrosaurs, and in Oviraptor, an odd theropod).

These patterns of laying suggest that she laid a bunch of eggs at one time in such a manner as not to step on them. Multiple trackways show age cohorts walking together, and do not show small and large sauropod dinosaurs travelling together. As far as I know, there is no evidence in support of parental rearing or nurturing for sauropod dinosaurs.

Saltopus is a small Triassic form from Scotland. Some people have suggested that it may not even be a dinosaur (it is probably a reptile). The specimen is so poor that the curator of the specimen, A. Charig, once called it nothing more than “a stain on a rock”. A better example would be Protoceratops, a small dinosaur from the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, that is so well known that they not only have so many skeletons that they can tell the males from the females, but they also have numerous eggs and nests belonging to this little dinosaur. Also we know far more about titanosaur eggs and embryos from Argentina and France than we do about Apatosaur eggs. From North America we do, however, have the eggs, nests, embryos, nestlings and adults of the hadrosaurs Maiasaura (Montana) and Hypacrosaurus (Alberta).

Apatosaurus — also called Brontosaurus — and Saltopus did not exist on Earth at the same time. Saltopus is Triassic and was extinct before the Jurassic Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus) evolved.

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