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MSU China Paleontology Expedition–Beautiful window serves as escape hatch for baby dinosaur

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Editor’s Note: MSU China Paleontology Expedition is a project led by Frankie D. Jackson and David J. Varricchio, professors in the Department of Earth Sciences, Dinosaur Paleontology at Montana State University and Jin Xingsheng, paleontologist and Vice Director of the Zhejiang Natural History Museum in Hangzhou, China. This is the second year this program sent students – primarily from small junior and tribal colleges – to China for paleontological work. This year’s students are currently in China, studying dinosaur eggs, as well as Chinese culture.

 

Our research is being conducted within the Zhejiang Natural History Museum, which contains thousands of eggs most of which have not been studied. We are attempting to gain a deeper understanding of dinosaur eggs as a whole. Why does egg shell thinning occur? Are there patterns behind how they crush and fracture? How do you determine a hatching window? Is there a pattern to clutch arrangement, and if so what can it possibly tell us about parental care? These questions and the research that follows will add to the knowledge we already have, since ultimately dinosaur eggs are a bit of a mystery. We are exceptionally fortunate to have been presented with this opportunity to conduct such research, of which we are quite thankful.

Working at Zhejiang Museum of Natural History (Photo by Josette Wooden Legs)

Friday concluded our first week of research. We have looked at a good number of eggs; probably around 20 or more eggs per group. While looking through the collections vault for more eggs, Frankie and I stumbled across an egg that could be a model example of a hatching window (which is the opening through which the hatchling dinosaur escapes). It was absolutely beautiful and we were all very excited to have found it. A bit of fun was had and a baby dinosaur was constructed out of clay and set up to look as if it was popping out of the egg.

Clay dinosaur peers out of hatching window in dinosaur egg at Zhejiang Museum of Natural History. (Photo by Betsy Kruk).

Amidst the occasional entertainment we have, there is serious hard work going on; each day we spend our time describing the eggs, measuring their dimensions, and recording any other data that is of interest.

Group at Lingyin Temple complex. (Photo by Wenjie Zheng, curator, Earth Science Department at Zhejiang Museum of Natural History).

Saturday was one of our off days and we visited the Lingyin Temple complex and West Lake. The temple’s sprawling grounds were crowded with tourists and interspersed with carvings and statues depicting Buddha, among other deities.

Lingyin Temple complex. (Photo by Josette Wooden Legs).

After we had finished exploring the temple, we traveled via bus to West Lake. Several members of the group visited the Zhejiang Provincial Museum, the remainder of us set off to walk around the lake. West Lake was nothing but gorgeous. There were windsurfers, little sail boats, and quite a lovely view of Hangzhou from across the lake.

Windsurfers at West Lake (Photo by Betsy Kruk).View at West Lake. (Photo by Josette Wooden Legs).

Also, leave it to a group of college kids to find a way to bring a little of Montana to China. Last week Wednesday night after dinner, a group of us brought Tyler’s laptop and his new nine dollar cube speakers out to the plaza in front of the museum, where we proceeded to swing dance. I never guessed I would be dancing to country music anywhere outside of Montana; we even attracted a small crowd. It was an entertaining way to unwind after a day of research.

Beautiful West Lake. (Photo by Josette Wooden Legs).

This week we have been out in the field, so those stories will be on their way to you shortly. Following that will be posts by the other members of the group explaining their chosen research projects. Thanks for sharing in our adventures.

About the Author: Betsy Kruk is a senior in paleontology at Montana State University. Originally from Chicago she came out to Montana for the mountains and dinosaurs. Since she was little she has always wanted to be a paleontologist and recently decided to pursue a career as a professor. On a less serious note, she loves to read, run, ride horses and play video games.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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