Birds can thank dinosaurs for their colorful eggs

Birds only use two pigments, red and blue, to create a dazzling array of colorful and speckled eggs. Scientists thought these colors evolved independently, meaning it was an avian innovation. But it turns out our beaked friends owe a colorful debt to non-avian dinosaurs. According to a study published in Nature , birds’ eggs are the result of dinosaurs that began to lay their eggs in open or partially open nests. The colors evolved as a result of this practice. (Many dinosaurs buried their eggs.) Once eggs were easier to see, they were more exposed to the elements, including egg-nabbing predators. Colors and speckles provided some camouflage and protection. "This completely changes our understanding of how egg colors evolved," the study’s lead author, paleontologist Jasmina Wiemann, said in a statement released by Yale University . "For two centuries, ornithologists assumed that egg color appeared in modern birds’ eggs multiple times, independently." To determine how birds got their colored eggs, researchers looked at 18 fossil dinosaur eggshell samples from all over the world. They used nondestructive laser microspectroscopy to test for red and blue pigments. They found these pigments in eggs belonging to oviraptors, relatives of the famed velociraptor, and […]

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