High on a rocky cliff in central Utah, paleontologists Lindsay Zanno and Bucky Gates found something rare – a large clutch of fossilized dinosaur eggs.
While complete dinosaur nests and eggs have been found in North America, the majority belong to duckbill or raptor dinosaurs. The eggs Zanno and Gates found, which date to the Cretaceous period, belong to a group of bird-like dinosaurs known as caenagnathids. To imagine a caenagnathid, picture an overgrown cassowary, complete with a half-moon shaped crest on the head, toothless beak, long feathers on the arms and a broad tail feather-fan similar to a turkey. The find is the first clutch of caenangathid eggs found on the North American continent.
But finding the eggs was just the beginning, as the paleontologists from NC State and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences then had to figure out how to get 1,400 pounds of plaster-encased fossils down from an area they dubbed the “cliffs of insanity.” In the end, a helicopter salvage operation lifted the cargo from the cliffs onto a trailer for transport. Now safely ensconced at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, the clutch will be prepared and studied to see what it can tell us about these ancient animals and how they lived.
Video courtesy of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.