Updated: Jun 29, 2022
On June 1, 2022 a remarkable dinosaur egg with intact embryo was unveiled on the campus of Auburn University over 50 years after being found in the Cretaceous sediments west of Selma, Alabama by APS member and Vice President, Prescott Atkinson, in 1970. This incredibly rare fossil has had quite the journey spanning 82 million years to end up where it is today. The egg is the only known dinosaur egg found in North America east of the Mississippi river and potentially the only dinosaur egg found in marine deposits. It is believed to be from an Ornithomimid theropod dinosaur. Some unfortunate event caused the nearly hatched egg to find itself at sea where it was buried and fossilized, unfortunate for the unborn dinosaur anyway, but a tremendous fortune for us. The egg was first documented in a scientific paper by Dr. James Dobie in 1978. Later Dr. James Lamb (pictured below middle, with Prescott Atkinson on the left (his right), and Dr. Jon Armbruster, Auburn University Museum of Natural History, to the right ) studied the egg and realized an embryo was contained inside the egg. In 2000, Dr. Lamb removed some of the shell from the egg so that the embryo could be prepped and studied.
In 2014 the egg was taken across the Atlantic Ocean to the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France, so that the embryo could be imaged allowing individual bones to be visualized in 3D without any further removal of matrix. A resulting image is shown below behind Prescott as he is telling the story of the egg's discovery.
There are many more details to this story, but ultimately on this night it has found a permanent home and after hearing much about this egg that was found in Alabama, I was honored to see it in person. The display is in the Rouse Life Sciences Building Lobby on the campus of Auburn University for all to enjoy. The display is magnificent and provides much detail about the egg, an image of how an adult Ornithomimus might have looked, and all in the modern setting in which the dinosaur egg was found.
A large number of people turned out for the unveiling and Auburn did a fantastic job planning and executing the wonderful event. A big round of applause for all that were involved and congratulations to Prescott!
Written by Jim Braswell, APS President