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NC Paleontologists Uncover 97 Million-Year-Old Eggs From Gigantic Chicken-Like Dino

A group of scientists led by a North Carolina paleontologist have uncovered a rare trove of dinosaur eggs from a species that does not even have a name yet. The dinosaur belonged to the oviraptorosaur group: bird-like dinosaurs that looked a little like parrots or chickens and walked on two legs.

The first-ever grouping of oviraptorosaur eggs found in North America is now being carefully prepared under the watchful eyes of North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences paleontologists, and the many kids who peer eagerly through the museum glass.

Host Frank Stasio speaks with Lindsay Zanno, a professor at North Carolina State University and the museum’s head paleontologist whose team uncovered the eggs in the desert of Utah. Also joining the conversation is the first person to discover the eggs in the field: Terry Gates, a paleontologist and lecturer at NC State.


Terry "Bucky" Gates on stumbling upon the rare dinosaur eggs:

[Zanno] got this hare-brain idea that we're gonna climb a 1,000-foot cliff to look at a set of rocks that no one had looked at before. So toward the end of the day, we were hot and tired and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and came over the edge of this hill, and I looked down and instead of finding the characteristic black bone we were finding, I found huge pieces of eggshell.

Lindsay Zanno on how intuition and persistence are key to paleontology:

I think we all have the superstition that it's the place you really don't want to go where you're gonna find the best stuff. But you never really know. [We’d] been climbing that cliff for four years or so before Bucky stumbled upon that nest and it made those four years of all that work worth it.

Zanno on how the 15-foot chicken-like dinosaur resembled birds:

It's a cousin group to birds. It didn't survive – of course birds are the only group of dinosaurs that made it through the mass extinction event. But these are very similar. They are convergent with birds, so they have toothless beaks. They have feathers and wings. They actually lay their nests in quite similar ways. They have a lot of similar behaviors to birds. 

Laura Pellicer is a digital reporter with WUNC’s small but intrepid digital news team.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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