Tiny, ornamented eggs and eggshell from the Upper Cretaceous of Utah represent a new ootaxon with theropod affinities
Oser, Sara E.
Varricchio, David J.
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A new Cretaceous ootaxon (eggshell type) from the Kaiparowits Formation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is among a growing number of very small eggs described from the Mesozoic. Analyses of two partial eggs (~ 17.7 mm in diameter) and 29 eggshell fragments reveal that this new ootaxon exhibits nodose ornamentation with distinctive branching pore canals that open atop the nodes. Its two-layered microstructure consists of a mammillary layer and a continuous layer with rugged grain boundaries between calcite grains. Although the exact identity of the egg producer is unknown, the eggshell microstructure and small size is consistent with a small-bodied avian or non-avian theropod. The specific combination of small egg size, branching pores, two-layered microstructure, and dispersituberculate ornamentation preserved in this new ootaxon is unique among theropod eggs. This underscores that both eggshell and skeletal fossils of Cretaceous theropods can display a mosaic of transitional morphological and behavioural features characteristic of both avian and non-avian taxa. As such, this new ootaxon increases the diversity of Cretaceous eggs and informs our understanding of the evolution of theropod eggshell microstructure and morphology.
Oser, S.E., Chin, K., Sertich, J.J.W. et al. Tiny, ornamented eggs and eggshell from the Upper Cretaceous of Utah represent a new ootaxon with theropod affinities. Sci Rep 11, 10021 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-89472-1