Inside Dinosaur Eggs

The Time Capsule Dinosaur Eggs project

The Time Capsule Dinosaur Eggs have become a major tourist attraction at the Hunterian Museum (University of Glasgow). They have also become the objects of important scientific research into dinosaurs. The reason for the current world-wide interest in these particular eggs is that they appear to contain the remains of dinosaur embryos. State of the art technology has been used to examine the eggs without damaging them and the eggs have visited several Glasgow Hospitals to undergo the specialist CT and MRI scanning treatment.

It is very rare to find a dinosaur egg with embryonic remains still held within. The only way of being sure which type dinosaur laid the egg, is to identify these embryonic remains. Dinosaur eggs are now being found in their thousands, but still it is rare to find unhatched eggs with the embryo at an advanced stage of development.

In late 1993 I (Neil Clark) was able to announce that I had been able to purchase a clutch of dinosaur eggs with the help of the Time Capsule, Monklands, and the National Fund for Acquisitions, as well as many donations from members of the public.

During the Science Faculty centennary celebrations at the University of Glasgow that year, I was able to excavate the eggs from the sandstone block in which they were held. This was done within the public gallery of the museum to allow those who contributed to their purchase to watch the excavation.

Much publicity surrounded the eggs at various stages throughout the period from before the purchase until well after. I hope that as new techniques develop, that we will be able to discover much more about the animals that laid the eggs.

Several people have been with the project since the outset, working on particular aspects of the project. Dr Sally Solomon of the Veterinary School (University of Glasgow) looked at the structure of the egg shell using SEM and found that there was a difference between those eggs that had definitely hatched and those that had not. The calcium up-take of the embryo was significantly different suggesting also that several stages of development were represented in the clutch.

Jeff Liston has been helping with the general research into dinosaur eggs and has been looking at the geological aspects of the rock as well. He has looked at many dinosaur eggs for comparison and was the discoverer of dinosaur eggs in Romania.

Dr Colin Braithwaite of the Department of Geology and Applied Geology had a close look at the sedimentology of the grit that enclosed the eggs which was partly cemented by a micritic cement.

Many others helped at both the Victoria Infirmary, where the initial CT scanning took place, and the Western Infirmary, where the MRI and later CT scanning was done. Rolls Royce also did a high energy neutron scan of the eggs for the BBCTV programme Tomorrow's World along with the Victoria Infirmary's CT scanning in April 1994.

Despite being approached to help fund the project, Amblin Entertainment decided that Steven Spielberg was sponsoring enough dinosaur egg projects in the US, to sponsor this one. Does anyone know of a similar project in the US that he does sponsor? He was very kind to wish us all the success in our endeavors though.

The MRI scanning showed very little, if anything, but it was written-up for a conference in California where we concluded that there was a layer of trapped moisture around the egg shell. Drs Mark McJury (Western Infirmary) and Brian Condon (Southern General Hospital) were instrumental in the interpretation of the scan images (Jeff Liston and myself were co-authors of the abstract also).

The eggs featured in SCIENCE volume 263, p469 on the 28 January 1994.

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