April 6, 2012
Were Easter Eggs Inspired By Dinosaurs?
A new study comparing the eggs of various biological species has determined that some types of Easter eggs purchased in the marketplace may actually have been inspired by dinosaurs, not birds.
According to an Asian News International (ANI) report, research conducted by paleontologists in Spain and the UK analyzed fossil eggs estimated to be 70 million years old that were discovered in the Pyrenees. Their goal was to determine whether or not the eggs in question had been laid by birds or dinosaurs.
Building upon that initial study, a team from the University of Leicester in England compared the shapes of various Easter eggs to both actual bird and actual dinosaur eggs, in order to determine which species inspired their shapes. Their findings have been published in the most recent edition of the journal Palaeontology.
"We found that different species have different shaped eggs, and that the eggs of dinosaurs are not the same shape as the eggs of birds," said Enric Vicens of the Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona, co-author of the first study comparing the dinosaur and modern bird eggs, said in a statement Wednesday.
In order to do so, Vicens and co-author Nieves Lopez-Martinez of the Universidad Complutense of Madrid developed a mathematical formula in order to determine and provide descriptions for all possible egg shapes. They then applied their formula to actual eggs, and determined that dinosaur eggs "tend to be more elongate and less rounded than bird eggs," as well as "more symmetrical with less distinction between the blunt and the more pointed end."
Building upon Vicens and Lopez-Martinez's work, Mark Purnell, a professor at the University of Leicester's Department of Geology and a council member of the Palaeontological Association, attempted to discover which types of eggs provided inspiration for the Easter eggs commonly sold at shops around the world (and delivered to children by the Easter Bunny). He determined that there was a far greater diversity in the shapes of the eggs than there would be if a single species served as the universal source of them all.
"Many of the smaller eggs to be found commonly on the UK High Street are very similar in shape to hen's eggs, providing strong clues to their original source. Others are more similar in shape to Condor eggs," he said. "Perhaps more surprisingly a few eggs are closer in shape to those of dinosaurs, with one in particular being the same shape as the 70 million year old dinosaur egg, Sankofa pyrenaica, described by the Spanish team".
University of Calgary Professor Darla Zelenitsky of the University of Calgary, an expert on dinosaurs and their eggs who did not work on their study, said, "It is really exciting to find these additional links between extinct dinosaurs and living birds -- birds are living dinosaurs so it makes perfect sense that their eggs share such similarities“¦ Paleontologists have long suggested that small early mammals might have raided the nests of dinosaurs. Generally, the idea is that they stole the eggs for food, but if the evidence of this Easter egg research is reliable, perhaps early mammals had more playful and colorful motives."
Image 2: The pale gray eggs are from birds, the darker gray eggs are from dinosaurs. Most Easter eggs, as shown on the right, are similar in shape to bird's eggs, but some are closer to the eggs of dinosaurs. The Easter egg on the left is particularly close to the newly described egg Sankofa. Credit: Mark Purnell, University of Leicester