While the colors of bird eggs range from reddish browns to bright blues, the true color of dinosaur eggs has puzzled scientists. To get to the bottom of this, researchers from Bonn University scrutinized eggs from a group of small, bird-like dinosaurs called oviraptors to determine their original color. While Jurassic Park may have led you to believe that they were probably white, researchers have found evidence to suggest that the eggs were actually a pleasant teal.
Oviraptors were swift, omnivorous theropods which, similar to modern birds, kept their eggs in open nests. The study, published in the journal PeerJ, analyzed the well-preserved 66-million-year-old eggs from three prehistoric nesting sites in China. As Jeff Hecht from New Scientist reports, researchers chose pale oviraptor eggs as the pigment molecules of darker eggs – either brown or black – were stained by minerals. The results showed that the oviraptor eggs had the pigments biliverdin and protoporphyrin, which suggests the original color of the eggs was blue-green.
"This is our first knowledge of anything about dinosaur egg colors," David Varricchio, from Montana State University, who was not involved in the study, told New Scientist.
The results of the study suggest the coloration in bird eggs goes back millions of years. Researchers say that egg coloration could have evolved alongside open nesting behavior. Colored eggs can have a number of important functions, according to researchers. They can act as a "visual signal" to parents, helping them to tell their own eggs apart from any intruders, and can also camouflage eggs from predators as white eggs tend to stand out more against darker backgrounds. Current birds with blue-greenish eggs often display significant parental investment, according to the study, which could suggest that dinosaurs exhibited parental care.