About 66 million years ago, at the end of the Age of the Dinosaurs, Montana was home to many different kinds of dinosaurs, big and small. Those dinosaurs lived and bred in the lush riverine landscapes of a much warmer Montana. Hundreds of small fossils from this ancient ecosystem are housed in the VMNH collections from the Cretaceous-aged Hell Creek Formation. A recent study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology by Frankie D. Jackson and David J. Varricchio of Montana State University found a new type of dinosaur egg.
The new egg type belongs to a theropod dinosaur, part of the highly carnivorous group found at Hell Creek that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and Dakotaraptor. Fossil eggs are actually given unique names, since it is very rare to know exactly which species was the egg-maker. In the case of the new fossil, it was given the egg species (called an oospecies) Dimorphoolithus bennetti. The species is named after George Bennett, a Virginia paleontologist and VMNH Research Associate who has collected fossils in Montana for several years.
Now that the paper has been published, the original dinosaur egg shell fragments have been returned to the VMNH. Despite a wealth of fossils from the Hell Creek, this is the first formal description of fossil eggs from the site. Just one example of how even small fossils can contribute new understanding to a heavily studied area. The VMNH is happy to have these little egg shells in its collections, available to scientists from around the world.