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Egg Within An Egg: Indian Researchers Find Unique Dinosaur Egg in MP – Check Full Details Here

Egg Within An Egg: Indian Researchers Find Unique Dinosaur Egg in MP – Check Full Details Here
Representational Image. (Jarino47/Getty Images/Via Canva)
Representational Image. (Jarino47/Getty Images/Via Canva)

Exactly forty years ago, Ashok Sahni, a pioneering palaeontologist and the very man who placed India on the fossil map of the world, was busy turning Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur upside down in search of dinosaur fossils. After hours of labouring in the punishing heat, Sahni had bent down to tie his shoe laces, and that was when he spotted around five spherical structures staring up at him. Those weathered globes turned out to be eggs of the Titanosaurus indicus, a giant herbivorous dinosaur from the Cretaceous Period, just waiting to be discovered.

The Titanosaurs are a diverse group of sauropod dinosaurs that include genera from all seven continents. Also, these plant-eating dinosaurs were among the last surviving group of long-necked sauropods, with the taxa still thriving at the time of the Cretaceous extinction event that occurred nearly 66 million years ago.

Skipping to present-day Madhya Pradesh, not long ago, a team of researchers from Delhi University and Dhar district’s Higher Secondary School were away on a field trip in the area. But little did the trio know that history would repeat itself and that they’d come upon a Titanosaur nesting site that would change what we thought we knew about dinosaur reproduction!

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The team uncovered a total of 52 nests near Padlya village close to Bagh town. And in the one labelled ‘nest P7,’ they found eleven eggs. But one of those eggs stood out from the rest.

What Harsha Dhiman, Guntupalli Prasad and Vishal Verma found was the first known instance of ovum-in-ovo or egg-in-egg in a reptilian species — making this an incredibly important discovery.

Two slightly partially broken circular eggshell outlines can be seen with broken eggshell fragments within the specimen. (Harsha Dhiman/Sci Rep)
Two slightly partially broken circular eggshell outlines can be seen with broken eggshell fragments within the specimen. (Harsha Dhiman/Sci Rep)

This Russian doll-like egg possesses two continuous and circular eggshell layers separated by a wide gap. The specimen has fossilised beautifully, and “the cross-sectional outline of the pathologic egg shows physical organisation of the two shell layers similar to the ovum-in-ovo eggs previously reported in birds,” the study states.

“This opens up the possibility that titanosaurids might have adapted for sequential laying of eggs,” it adds.

This type of egg has only been observed in birds and occurs when an egg is pushed back into the mother’s reproductive tract and becomes embedded with another newly forming egg. This phenomenon, dubbed counter-peristalsis contraction, is pretty rare even for birds.

The discovery thus highlights how dinosaurs had reproductive biology similar to that of birds, contrary to previous accounts that suggested the dinosaurs’ reproductive systems were more similar to turtles and other reptiles.

“We hypothesise that ovum-in-ovo pathology is not unique only to birds, and sauropod dinosaurs had a reproductive anatomy more similar to those of archosaurs such as crocodiles and birds, rather than to those of non-archosaurian reptiles like turtles and lizards,” the team wrote in the study.

This won’t be the first time dinosaurs have been likened to birds. In the recent past, there have been accounts of chickens and ostriches being the closest living relatives of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

The findings of this study have been detailed in Nature’s Scientific Reports and can be accessed here.

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