In 2011, Chilean scientists discovered a large fossil in Antarctica and couldn’t identify what it was. The fossil, resembling a deflated football, lay useless in Chile’s National Museum of Natural History. “The Thing,” as they nicknamed it, was identified to be about 66 million years old at the time, and measured around 11 by 7 inches.
However, after an analysis by scientists from the University of Texas, “The Thing” has been identified to be the largest known reptilian egg. “It is from an animal the size of a large dinosaur — but it is completely unlike a dinosaur egg,” lead author Lucas Legendre, a geoscientist at the University of Texas, said according to Fox News. The egg is believed to have been laid by a giant sea reptile, possibly the Mosasaur (as seen in Jurassic World). However, it is unknown if the egg was laid on land or at sea.
Comparing with the size of reptiles and their eggs today, it is estimated by the researchers that the creature would have been at least seven meters long. The egg also marks the largest soft-shelled egg and second-largest egg we know off. A paper was published describing the egg on the journal Nature.
David Rubilar-Rogers of Chile’s National Museum of Natural History, also co-author of the study, was one of the first scientists to have originally found the fossilized egg in 2011. However, he wasn’t able to identify the fossil as an egg until Julia Clarke, a professor in the Jackson School’s Department of Geological Sciences, suggested that it could be a deflated egg, ScienceDaily reports.
It was later that Legendre began pursuing an analysis of the fossil with this new theory until he found multiple layers of membrane that confirmed the theory that the fossil was an egg. The egg was hatched and contained no skeleton of any reptile inside, making it difficult for Legendre to identify the type of egg and what reptile could have laid it. After further comparison with a data set of living reptiles, he concluded that the reptile that laid the egg would have been at least 20 feet long (not counting the tail). This is most likely an ancient sea creature.
“Many authors have hypothesized that this was sort of a nursery site with shallow protected water, a cove environment where the young ones would have had a quiet setting to grow up,” Legendre said. It is still an open question about how and where the reptile laid the egg. Knowing the answer might help zero in on whose egg it may be!
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