Hot Or Not: Ancient Eggshells Reveal The Body Temperature Of Dinosaurs

Posted: Oct 13 2015, 9:28pm CDT | by , Updated: Oct 14 2015, 8:49pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Hot Or Not? Ancient Eggshells Reveal the Body Temperature of Dinosaurs
A large clutch of titanosaur eggs, LA County Natural History Museum

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The analysis of eggshells might end long, vigorous debate over the nature of dinosaur's body temperature.

Were dinosaurs warm or cool-blooded?

The discovery of ancient dinosaur eggshells might put an end to this long-standing vigorous debate.

Researchers from University of California, Los Angeles have recovered fossilized eggshells from Argentina and Mongolia’s Gobi desert and used them to determine the body temperatures of titanosaurs and oviraptors.

They found that body temperature of dinosaur differed widely. Long-necked tintosaurs were estimated to have had a body temperature of 99.7 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than humans, while two-legged meat eating oviraptors indicated a body temperature of around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lower than most modern mammals.

"Many people now think, based on current work, that dinosaurs were either fully endothermic (warm-blooded and producing heat internally) like most modern mammals and birds, or at a kind of intermediate physiological state and had not reached full endothermy," explained Robert Eagle, lead author and a researcher at the UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

To figure out the body temperatures of extinct dinosaurs, researchers analyzed calcium carbonate found in fossil eggshells. Calcium carbonate is created when two heavy isotopes – carbon-13 and oxygen-18 – bond together. The isotopic composition of calcium carbonate reflects the core temperature of the body.

“The abundance of these bonds in calcium carbonate is related to the temperature the mineral forms at, with more bonds forming at cold temperatures and less at hot. In the case of eggshells, the abundance of these bonds reflects the body temperature of the female when the eggshell forms.” Eagle said.

Both types of dinosaurs lived during the Cretaceous period roughly 70-80 million years ago. This is the first time when dinosaur eggshells have been used to understand the body temperature and metabolism of dinosaurs.

The study was published in Nature.

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