This article is from
Creation 41(1):20–23, January 2019

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The biggest dinosaur eggs

Just how big were they, and what are the implications for the Ark?

by

Photograph © Louie PsihoyosDino-eggs-largest
The largest dinosaur eggs ever found.

Have you ever thought about how pairs of each of the large dinosaur kinds were able to fit onto Noah’s Ark? Some of the sauropod dinosaurs reached over 30 m (100 ft) in length and likely some 50 tonnes (55 US tons) in weight! If they had been on the Ark they would have been a bit hard to handle (but there was plenty of room). The rather obvious answer is not to take fully grown adults, but rather juveniles, on board.

However, this still poses a problem in some minds. Wouldn’t such giant beasts have had huge babies, hatching out of monster eggs? While movies like Jurassic World depict dinosaur eggs as fairly small, they have been shown in popular media and cartoons as larger than a man, even. So, what is the truth about the size of dinosaur eggs? Did big dinosaurs lay big eggs, posing big questions for Noah’s Ark?

In the past 100 years there have been millions of fossilized dinosaur eggs (or parts thereof) discovered that help answer this question. Fragments can be cheaply purchased online; in most, the fossilized eggshell has bumpy ornamentation, easily felt when running your thumb over it (see photo of titanosaur egg).

While dinosaur eggs can be notoriously hard to link to a particular parent species, fossilized embryos discovered both inside and outside of the egg have enabled paleontologists to do so. The very fact that eggs and embryos have been preserved at all speaks of rapid burial in lots of sediment, and thus provides stunning evidence of the catastrophic global Noahic Flood.1

CC-BY-4.0 Hanyong Pu et al.eggs-schematic-overlay-2
Eggs and skeleton of Beibeilong sinensis. Right image shows schematic overlay of approximate locations of individual eggs. Eggs 1 through 4 are in an upper layer just beneath the skeleton, whereas egg 5 is in a lower layer of the block. Scale is in centimetres.5

Largest of the large

The largest known dinosaur eggs belong to the oogenus2 Macroelongatoolithus, fossil theropod eggs found in North America and Asia. They are elongated in shape, like French bread, normally about three times as long as they are wide, and reported to reach up to 61 cm (2 ft) long.3 One of the best known of these large dinosaur eggs was found in China’s Henan province in 1992. This is a partial clutch made up of five observable eggs, with the longest 45 cm (18 inches) in length, and around 15 cm (6 inches) across, and the body of a baby theropod dinosaur on top.

Due to the size of the eggs, some wondered at first if they belonged to the awesome theropod, Tyrannosaurus rex. The baby dinosaur, believed to have been forcibly extruded from an egg, is still in its embryonic posture, chin tucked down towards its chest and hips forward and up. At 23 cm (9 inches) long, measured from the top of the skull to the base of the tail, it would have only occupied less than two-thirds of the largest of the eggs beneath, further strengthening the notion that it was embryonic. It was affectionately named ‘Baby Louie’, and a reconstruction was featured on the front cover of National Geographic.4

Photograph: © Louie Psihoyos
(sculptor: Brian Cooley)
Illustration: CC-BY-4.0 Hanyong Pu et al.
(artist: Vladimir Rimbala)
Dino-Egg-Baby-Louie
The cover of the 1996 National Geographic edition featuring ‘Baby Louie’ in its embryonic pose. On the right, the 2017 reconstruction of ‘Baby Louie’ inside a Macroelongatoolithus egg. Note how the later picture has the Beibelong sinensis now covered in feathers to try and imprint further the idea of dinosaur-to-bird evolution in people’s minds. Neither Beibelong sinensis nor Gigantoraptor have been found with any feathers.

It was only in 2017 that the baby dinosaur was identified (and thus the eggs). It was a new giant type of oviraptorosaur (‘egg thief lizard’), labelled Beibeilong sinensis.5 From a detailed study of the skeleton, it is believed to have been closely related to, and able to reach similar proportions to, Gigantoraptor, which was up to 8 m (26 ft) long. From a biblical perspective, it is highly likely they were the same kind of dinosaur.

While the Macroelongatoolithus eggs are fairly common as fossils, the dinosaurs associated with them are not. Gigantoraptor6 and Beibeilong sinensis are known from only one fairly complete specimen each.

Surely larger dinosaurs produced larger eggs?

CC BY-SA 4.0 ‘Etemenanki3’ via WikipediaSauropod-egg
Fossil titanosaur egg from Auca Mahuevo. Such eggs are less than 15 cm (6 in) in diameter.

While Gigantoraptor and Beibeilong sinensis by extension, were large animals, they were by no means the largest of dinosaurs. So, what about the eggs of sauropod dinosaurs, such as the titanosaurs, which vastly outdid Gigantoraptor and Beibeilong sinensis in weight, length, and height? Interestingly, egg size is not dependent on the size of the parent dinosaur, nor does it dictate how large the dinosaur will eventually grow. Even though some of the titanosaurs could grow over 30 m (100 ft) long, their ball-shaped eggs are much smaller than Macroelongatoolithus eggs. For example, thousands of titanosaur eggs have been located in Auca Mahuevo, Argentina, which include embryos7 and scaly skin.8 The eggs, found in batches of 15–40 at a time, only measure 13–15 cm (5–6 inches) in diameter.9 An example of an intact titanosaur embryo in ovo, discovered in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, was only around 9 cm (3.5 inches) diameter.10 So even the largest of dinosaurs started very small when breaking out of their egg, and thus would have had no problem fitting onto Noah’s Ark in a juvenile state.

Could much larger dinosaur eggs be discovered?

CC by 2.0 ‘Kabacchi’ via flickr.comGigantoraptor
Reconstructed Gigantoraptor skeleton with Oviraptor (front)

It is unlikely that dinosaur eggs will be found that are much larger than the ones already reported, as eggs are limited to a maximum size. This is because the bigger the egg, the thicker its shell must be to support the weight of the egg and its contents. But the shell thickness is limited. This is primarily because air exchange through pores in the shell is required for the baby dinosaur inside to be able to breathe. If the shell were too thick, it would not be porous enough to allow this, and the baby dino would suffocate.

Are dino-babies up to the job?

While we now know that all dinosaurs, regardless of how big they would become, started off very small, the Bible explains that they had a job to do when they came off Noah’s Ark—to reproduce and repopulate the earth (Genesis 8:17). So, wouldn’t the tiny size of such juveniles have prevented them from doing this, and left them vulnerable upon exiting the Ark?

Photograph: CC-BY-SA 1.0 ‘Dinoguy2’ via Wikipediadino-with-eggs
There have been some spectacular examples of dinosaur eggs found with their mother, demonstrating rapid deposition of sediment. Pictured: An oviraptorid, Citipati osmolskae nicknamed ‘Big Mamma’, seemingly brooding on top of her eggs.
Norell, M.A., and 3 others, A nesting dinosaur, Nature 378:774-776, 1995.

Importantly, the ones chosen did not have to be new-born infants. The point about egg size is that even the hugest dinos were once tiny, so any size they grew to thereafter could have been selected.

In relation to any perceived vulnerability, studies of dinosaur bones have provided further insight. They have shown that dinosaurs went through growth spurts, some starting as early as the age of five and levelling off in their teens, and juvenile females had medullary tissue, indicating they were producing eggs.11 So the juvenile mega-dinosaurs which came off Noah’s Ark would likely have become very big very quickly afterwards, and been able to reproduce to repopulate the earth with their kinds.

Noah did not have to go and find juvenile dinosaurs matching these traits, as it was God who brought all of the animals to Noah’s Ark (Genesis 6:20). God understood their size and task, and was also well aware of the dimensions of the Ark, having specified them to Noah (Genesis 6:14–16).

So, while skeptics may raise questions about Noah’s Ark and dinosaurs, an understanding of the Genesis text, coupled with information about their eggs, embryos and bones, provides solid answers.


References and notes

  1. Oard, M., Dinosaur eggs point to the Genesis Flood, Creation 40(3):52—54, 2018. Return to text.
  2. Literally ‘egg-genus’, a taxon used to classify fossil dinosaur eggs. Return to text.
  3. Wang, D., and Zhou, S., The discovery of new typical dinosaur egg fossils from Xixia Basin, Henan Geol. 13:262–267, 1995. Return to text.
  4. Currie, P., The great dinosaur egg hunt, National Geographic, 189(5):96–111, 1996. Return to text.
  5. Pu, H, et al., Perinate and eggs of a giant caenagnathid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of central China, Nat. Commun. 8: 14952, 2017 | doi:10.1038/ncomms14952. Return to text.
  6. Xu, X. et al., A gigantic bird-like dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of China, Nature 447:844–847, 2007 | doi:10.1038/nature05849. Return to text.
  7. Chiappe, L. et al., Sauropod dinosaur embryos from the Late Cretaceous of Patagonia, Nature 396:258–261, 1998 | doi:10.1038/24370. Return to text.
  8. Coria, R.A. and Chiappe, L., Embryonic skin from Late Cretaceous Sauropods (Dinosauria) of Auca Mahuevo, Patagonia, Argentina, Journal of Paleontology, 81(6):1528–1532, 2007 | doi:10.1666/05-150.1. Return to text.
  9. Chiappe, L. et al., Nesting Titanosaurs from Auca Mahuevo and Adjacent Sites: Understanding Sauropod Reproductive Behavior and Embryonic Development, pp. 285–302 in The Sauropods: Evolution and Paleobiology, Wilson, J., and Curry-Rogers, K., Eds., University of California Press 2005. Return to text.
  10. Grellet-Tinner, G., and 8 others, Description of the first lithostrotian titanosaur embryo in ovo with Neutron characterization and implications for lithostrotian Aptian migration and dispersion, Gondwana Research, 20(2–3):621–629, 2011 | doi:10.1016/j.gr.2011.02.007. Return to text.
  11. Sarfati, J., How did dinosaurs grow so big? And how did Noah fit them on the Ark? Creation, 28(1):44—47, 2005. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Exploring Dinosaurs with Mr Hibb
by Michael Oard, Tara Wolfe, Chris Turbuck, Gary Bates
US $17.00
Hard Cover
Dinosaurs!
US $10.00
DVD

Readers’ comments

Raymond S.
Meat eaters may have not been much of a threat for awhile after leaving the ark anyway, due to the probable abundance of carrion available from the Flood. Much easier to scavenge than to hunt when carrion is available.
John C.
Excellent article! Collects and summarizes a large amount of data, with cogent deductions to the benefit of the Creation-Flood model.

The line about egg size not being indicative of the size of the parent nor the size to which the infant would grow was reminiscent of two things: 1) I'm reminded of the old Godzilla movies, in which eggs the size of buildings were regularly portrayed as the beginnings for these 'monsters'; 2) Another fact related to this is chromosome count--it does not follow that the supposedly most advanced species would have the greatest number of chromosomes.

All in all, well done!

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