LOOK: Crystal-Filled Dinosaur Eggs Discovered by Paleontologists

by Chris Haney

Recently, paleontologists in China discovered crystal-filled dinosaur eggs of a new species found in the Qianshan Basin, Anhui Province. Researchers found two of the fossilized eggs that are the size of cannonballs and filled with clusters of calcite crystals.

Scientists identified the dinosaur eggs and recognized them as a new species due to their larger size. Plus, they noted the tight arrangement of eggshell units and their unique spherical shape, according to the Journal of Palaeogeography.

“Here we describe two newly discovered dinosaur eggs from the Upper Cretaceous Chishan Formation in the Qianshan Basin, Anhui Province, East China,” the paper’s authors wrote.

“New oospecies Shixingoolithus qianshanensis represents the first discovery of oogenus Shixingoolithus from the Qianshan Basin. S. qianshanensis also provides new paleontological evidence for the identification, division and correlation of the Upper Cretaceous–Lower Paleocene strata in the Qianshan Basin, Anhui Province, East China,” the author added.

Similar to modern-day birds and reptiles, experts believe that most dinosaurs reproduced by laying eggs. Yet it can be tough to identify the species of dinosaur since fossilized eggs rarely have a preserved embryo. Instead, scientists identify them by their size, shape, and mineral structure to classify dinosaur eggs into oospecies. According to the report, experts discovered “approximately 16 oofamilies and 35 oogenera” in the Asian country.

Dinosaur Eggs, Fossils, and Footprints Discovered in China

A variety of dinosaur eggs aren’t the only discoveries paleontologists have found in China in recent years. They’ve also come across dinosaur fossils and footprints throughout the country. In fact, in Liaoning Province alone, scientists discovered more than 60 species of plants, 90 species of vertebrates, and almost 300 species of invertebrates.

However, one of the newly discovered dinosaur eggs from the Qianshan Basin is unfortunately damaged. Over the years, weathering impacted the preservation of the egg. The damage also revealed the crystallized calcite within the egg.

“Due to the effects of weathering, the outmost part of the eggshells and the corresponding secondary eggshell units are not preserved in the newly discovered Qianshan dinosaur eggs,” the Journal of Palaeogeography authors wrote.

According to a 2014 report from Cretaceous ResearchShixingoolithus eggs might have hatched into ornithopods. Those are herbivorous dinosaurs that walked on two legs and could reach between 6 and 30 feet from head to tail.

The newly discovered eggs are thought to date back to the Upper Cretaceous–Lower Paleocene era. Scientists believe that the dinosaur species that laid the eggs was probably killed off during the end-Cretaceous extinction event. The Chicxulub asteroid impacted Earth around 66 million years ago and led to “total devastation” in the region where it hit.

Professor Paul Barrett, a dinosaur researcher at London’s Natural History Museum, spoke about the extinction event in a museum blog post. He shared that the asteroid made “a huge crater” and it sent “soot traveling around the world.” That reduced the amount of light that reached the Earth’s surface, which impacted plant growth. Without plants to eat, herbivores died, then carnivores followed. The domino effect led to 75% of all animals dying on Earth.