RALEIGH, N.C. – A paleontologist from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science made an incredible discovery.
A team of paleontologists led by Lindsay Zanno found a clutch with more than eight football-sized oviraptorosaur eggs from sediments deposited around 97 million years ago.
“To imagine an oviraptorosaur, picture an overgrown cassowary, complete with a half-moon shaped crest on the head, toothless beak, long feathers on the arms, and a broad tail-feather fan similar to a turkey,” the N.C. Museum of Natural Science said in a news release.
The site also contained evidence of ancient trees that once lined the river bank where the dinosaur parents-to-be sat roosting on their nests.
Hundreds of oviraptorosaur nests are known from China and Mongolia, yet only two fragmentary eggs have been definitely described from North America–until now.
“This is the first time we found a clutch of oviraptorosaur eggs on the North American continent,” Zanno adds, “it’s incredibly exciting for us.” When describing the day he found the eggs, Terry Gates of N.C. State’s Department of Biological Sciences says, “It was a moment when 20 years of hard-earned determination, patience, luck and that little voice inside my head led to one of the most important fossil discoveries of my life.”
The egg clutch had to be airlifted from a cliff in Utah, then laid carefully into the bed of a truck-drawn trailer to be taken back to North Carolina.
Now, chief fossil preparator Aaron Giterman has begun to release the fossil eggs from the surrounding rock.
Museum visitors can now watch the preparation of the eggs behind glass walls of the Paleontology Research Lab.
“We are fortunate to have some incredibly talented scientists and researchers on our staff, and they amaze me every day with the fascinating and important discoveries they make about our natural world,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “I can’t wait to see what our paleontologists can learn from this exciting find.”