Tzu-Ruei Yang / Bonn University
Tzu-Ruei Yang / Bonn University

Scientists Discover the Colors of Dinosaur Eggs

Tzu-Ruei Yang / Bonn University
Tzu-Ruei Yang / Bonn University

Today’s bird nests are awash with an array of lively colors. Magpies often lay reddened eggs, nightingales can produce olive ones, and the great tinamou’s range from deep purple to sky blue. Yet, for over a century, scientists had no idea if their prehistoric ancestors echoed this diversity. The first dinosaur eggs to be recognized as such were discovered in 1923 by an American team exploring Mongolia. Since then, it’s been widely assumed that their shells were either bone white or beige. But a recent study argues that at least some dinosaurs hatched from striking, bluish-green eggs.

As New Scientist recently reported, Jasima Weimann—a graduate student working under German paleontologist Martin Sander—has detected two telltale pigments inside the fossilized eggshells of a 66-million-year-old dinosaur known as Heyuannia huangi, a small, beaked oviraptorid. Known as protoporphyrin and biliverdin, these pigments make robin eggs blue and chicken eggs reddish-brown.

“This is the first time that [dinosaur] eggshell pigments … have been detected in any fossil,” the researchers says. So where in the chromatic spectrum did Heyuannia’s eggs fall? According to the researchers, these had a blue-green hue—which would have made them look rather like emu eggs

Perhaps the animal evolved such shells to conceal its unborn offspring from predators. Theoretically, a mother could step out for some breakfast safe in the knowledge that her clutch was well-camouflaged against a leafy background of Mesozoic underbrush.

Also, those distinctive colors would’ve made imposters easy to spot. Some modern birds (like the old world cuckoo) sneakily lay their own eggs in the nests of other avians. Yet, because robins lay blue eggs, they can pick out and eject an intruder’s plainer ones with ease. Maybe Heyuannia used this same trick against lazier dino parents that wanted to dupe it into caring for their own young. 

Quick True/False: World Capitals
Bain News Service - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
10 Pats Born on St. Patrick's Day
A photo from the 1919 wedding of Princess Patricia of Connaught to the Hon. Alexander Ramsay.
A photo from the 1919 wedding of Princess Patricia of Connaught to the Hon. Alexander Ramsay.
Bain News Service - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Need some St. Patrick's Day conversation fodder that doesn't involve leprechauns or four-leaf clovers? Ask your friends to name a "Pat" born on St. Patrick's Day. If they can't, they owe you a drink—then you can wow them with this list of 10.


Princess Patricia was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, who gave up all of her royal titles when she married a commoner. She was born at Buckingham Palace on March 17, 1886.


The Dallas star was born on March 17, 1949. And here's a totally random fact about Duffy: His nephew is Barry Zito, former MLB pitcher for the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants.


Pattie Boyd
Larry Ellis, Express/Getty Images

Pattie Boyd is well-known to lovers of classic rock: She has been married three times, including once to George Harrison and once to Eric Clapton, who both wrote a couple of the most romantic songs in rock history in her honor (including The Beatles's "Something" and Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight"). Boyd was a model when she met Harrison on the set of A Hard Day's Night in 1964; the pair were married two years later. They divorced in 1977 and she married Clapton, Harrison's close friend, in 1979. She also had an affair with Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones toward the end of her marriage to The Quiet Beatle.


Belfast-born Pat Rice is a former footballer and coach who spent the bulk of his career with Arsenal F.C. (that's "football club," a.k.a. soccer to us Americans). He joined the Gunners in 1964 as a mere apprentice, turning pro a couple of years later. He became captain in 1977 and left the club for a few years in the early 1980s to go to Watford, but returned after he retired from playing in 1984. In 2012, after nearly 30 years with the organization, he announced his retirement.


Patty Maloney is an actress with dwarfism who stands just three feet, 11 inches tall. She has appeared in many movies and T.V. shows over the years, including operating the Crypt Keeper puppet in Tales from the Crypt. She also played Chewbacca's son Lumpy in The Star Wars Holiday Special.


Michael C. Hall and Mathew St. Patrick in 'Six Feet Under'

Ok, so Mathew St. Patrick is the stage name of the actor, but he was born Patrick Matthews in Philadelphia on March 17, 1968. You probably know him best as David's boyfriend Keith on Six Feet Under.


He may not be a household name, but the recording artists Patrick Adams writes for and helps produce certainly are. Adams has been involved in the careers of Salt-N-Pepa, Sister Sledge, Gladys Knight, Rick James, and Coolio, among others.


It's possible you look at Patrick McDonnell's work every day, depending on which comics your newspaper carries. McDonnell draws a strip called Mutts featuring a dog and a cat named Earl and Mooch, respectively. Charles Schulz called it one of the best comic strips of all time.


 Singer/Guitarist Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins performs onstage during Live Earth New York at Giants Stadium on July 7, 2007 in East Rutherford, New Jersey
Evan Agostini, Getty Images

Yes, you know him better as just plain old Billy Corgan: he's the face of the Smashing Pumpkins, engages in public feuds with Courtney Love, and maybe once dated Jessica Simpson. He made his debut on March 17, 1967.


Patricia Ford is a retired model probably best known for her Playboy photoshoots in the 1990s.


More from mental floss studios