They called it “The Thing”. It was a mysterious fossil found in the Antarctic. It looked like a deflated balloon. It was unidentified in the Museum of National History of Chile for years. It turned out to be the first fossil egg in Antarctica. Its age is around 66 million years old: just around the corner.
It measures 28 x 7 centimeters. It is the largest softshell egg ever discovered. Scientists believe it was used by an extinct giant marine reptile like a Mosasaur.
Not a dinosaur
“It’s an animal the size of a large dinosaur. But it’s completely different from a dinosaur egg,” he says It is a statement Lead author Lucas Legendre. He is a postdoctoral fellow at the Jackson School of Geosciences in UT.
The co-author is David Rubilar-Rogers from the Chilean Natural History Museum. He was one of the scientists who discovered the fossil in 2011.
Legendre found several membrane layers that confirmed that the fossil was actually an egg. The structure is very similar to the transparent, quickly hatching eggs that some snakes and lizards lay today. Legendre had to use other means to focus on the type of reptile that attracted him.
He compared the size of 259 reptiles to the size of their eggs. He discovered that the reptile that laid the egg was more than 6 meters long. An old marine reptile meets the requirements.
Theories on how to set them
The rock formation in which the egg was discovered also houses skeletons of baby Mosasaurs and Plesiosaurs. “Many authors have assumed that this is a kind of kindergarten. Maybe with shallow, protected water. A bay environment where young people would have had a quiet environment to grow up in, ”says Legendre.
The document doesn’t go into how the old reptile could have laid the eggs. The researchers have two competing ideas. One involves hatching the egg in open water. It is the way some species of sea snakes give birth.
The other says that the reptile lays its eggs on a beach and the cubs return to the sea like sea turtles. This approach would depend on some of the mother’s maneuvers. Huge marine reptiles were too heavy to carry their body weight ashore. To lay the eggs, the reptile would have to wag its tail on the shore while it remains underwater and supported by water.
Antarctica’s first fossil egg is like an opportunity to imagine a lost world. And it is worth studying further.