Have You Found a Dinosaur Egg?

The short answer, probably, is no

dinosaur eggs
A clutch of fossilized dinosaur eggs. Wikimedia Commons

People who think they have found dinosaur eggs in their backyards usually have been doing foundation work or laying a new sewer pipe and have dislodged "eggs" from their nesting place a foot or two underground. Most of these people are simply curious, but a few have hopes of making money from the find, dreaming of natural history museums engaging in bidding wars. The chance of success, however, is slim.

Dinosaur Eggs Are Extremely Rare

The average person might be forgiven for believing that he has accidentally unearthed a cache of fossilized dinosaur eggs. Paleontologists dig up the bones of adult dinosaurs all the time, so shouldn't females' eggs be as common a finding? The fact is that dinosaur eggs are only rarely preserved. An abandoned nest probably would have attracted predators, which would have cracked them open, feasted on the contents, and scattered the fragile eggshells. But the vast majority of eggs probably would have hatched, leaving behind a pile of fractured eggshells.

Paleontologists do sometimes find fossilized dinosaur eggs. "Egg Mountain" in Nebraska has yielded numerous clutches, or nests, of Maiasaura eggs, and elsewhere in the American West researchers have identified troodon and Hypacrosaurus eggs. One of the most famous clutches, from central Asia, belonged to a fossilized velociraptor mother, probably buried by a sudden sandstorm as she was brooding her eggs.

If They Aren't Dinosaur Eggs, What Are They?

Most such clutches are simply a collection of smooth, round rocks that have been eroded over millions of years into vaguely ovoid shapes. Or they may be chicken eggs, perhaps buried 200 years previously in a flood. Or they could have come from turkeys, owls, or, if found in Australia or New Zealand, ostriches or emus.

They almost certainly were laid by a bird, not a dinosaur. If you think they look like pictures you've seen of velociraptor eggs, you should know that velociraptors were native only to Inner Mongolia.

There is still a slight chance that what you've found are dinosaur eggs. You or an expert would have to figure out whether any of the geologic sediments in your area date back to the Mesozoic Era, from about 250 million to 65 million years ago. Many regions of the world have yielded fossils older than 250 million years, before dinosaurs evolved, or less than a few million years, long after dinosaurs went extinct. That would reduce the odds of your having found dinosaur eggs to almost exactly zero.

Ask an Expert

If you live near a natural history museum or a university with a paleontology department, a curator or paleontologist might be willing to look at your discovery, but be patient. It might take a busy professional weeks or months to get around to looking at your pictures or the "egg" itself and then breaking the bad news that it isn't what you had hoped it was.

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Strauss, Bob. "Have You Found a Dinosaur Egg?" ThoughtCo, May. 19, 2018, thoughtco.com/have-i-found-a-dinosaur-egg-1092027. Strauss, Bob. (2018, May 19). Have You Found a Dinosaur Egg? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/have-i-found-a-dinosaur-egg-1092027 Strauss, Bob. "Have You Found a Dinosaur Egg?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/have-i-found-a-dinosaur-egg-1092027 (accessed May 24, 2018).