In 1883, what was believed to be an ornamental crystalline gemstone was cataloged and placed in the mineralogy collection at the Natural History Museum in London.
Found in central India, agate, as it was called, was Almost perfectly roundAbout 6 inches across and a light pink color.
A March 29 news release from the Natural History Museum said that although beautiful, the stone “is not thought to have any other significance”.
That was until Robin Hansen went to a mineral show.
Hansen, one of the curators of the mineralogy collection, traveled to France in 2018 shortly after the museum exhibited the agate.
“As I was looking around the show, one of the dealers showed me a crushed dinosaur egg, which was round, had a thin hole, and had dark agate in the middle,” Hansen said in the release. “That was the lightbulb moment when I thought: ‘Wait a minute, this looks just like the one we have on display at the museum!'”
Hansen decided to talk to some dinosaur experts.
He spoke with paleontologists, and they agreed that the agate was the right size and shape to be an egg, and the stone showed evidence that it had once been buried with other rounded rocks, just like an egg would have been in a nest, the release said.
Upon closer examination, the researchers found that the agate was lined by a thin white layer, possibly an eggshell.
“It was correctly identified as agate in 1883 and cataloged using scientific knowledge available at the time,” Hansen said in the release. “It was only now that we recognized that this specimen contained something extra special—agate filled this spherical structure, which turned out to be a dinosaur egg.”
The discovery of the egg
The egg was first collected between 1817 and 1843 by a man named Charles Fraser who was living in India at the time, according to the release.
That means the egg was collected “at least 80 years before dinosaur eggs were first scientifically recognized,” the museum said.
Dinosaur eggshells were not confirmed to still exist until 1923, when a complete nest was found in Mongolia, according to the museum.
It may have been coined even before the word ‘dinosaur’ existed, since the word didn’t exist Defined up to 1842According to the museum.
The timing of the egg’s discovery means it may be the first dinosaur egg ever found – and they didn’t even know it.
Based on the age of the egg and where it was found, paleontologists believe it belonged to Titanosaurus, the largest dinosaur on Earth.
Life as a titanosaur
Titanosaurs lived from 163.5 million years ago to about 66 million years ago, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, and could grow up to 85 feet tall, making them Largest land animal ever known
Compared to their large size as adults, their eggs were surprisingly small, as seen in the inch-long agat from India.
“It seems really strange because these would have been huge animals,” paleontologist Paul Barrett said in the release, “but what they were doing was laying a lot of eggs.” We know many living organisms use this trade-off, so that they either invest in fewer large eggs or more small eggs.”
“It looks like titanosaurs adopted the strategy of laying large clutches of about 30 or 40 small eggs,” he said.
Paleontologists also believe that dinosaurs regularly returned to volcanic areas to lay their eggs because it was warmer, the release said.
“It will also help explain how egg agate was formed,” the museum said. “It’s possible that shortly after a titanosaur laid its eggs in the warm sand, a nearby volcano erupted.”
The volcanic rock would have covered a dinosaur’s nest, and then it hardened, according to the release, leaving the eggs to lay in the rock. The embryo would decompose, and water, which was full of silica, would fill the space, eventually solidifying into the beautiful pink rock seen today.
Sixty million years later, it was dug up in India and brought to London.
The egg and other specimens are on display at London’s Natural History Museum as part of the “Titanosaur: Life as the Biggest Dinosaur” exhibit.
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