Did Birds Get Their Colorful, Speckled Eggs From Dinosaurs?


Did Birds Get Their Colorful, Speckled Eggs From Dinosaurs?

An article in Gizmodo alerted me to a study from last year  (unfortunately behind a paywall) that was able to analyze fossil eggs of certain dinosaurs.  Researchers found that birds’ close dinosaur relatives had eggs with traces of two pigments—a red-brown one and a blue-green one. This same pair of pigments mixes and matches in today’s bird eggs to produce colors ranging from robin’s egg blue to red to yellow to green.  What’s more, the analysis of pigments showed that dinosaur eggs even had spots and speckles.

Researchers previously found evidence that oviraptor dinosaurs had pigment in their eggs just like birds do. They discovered this by slicing off a piece of a dinosaur egg and putting it through a molecule-identifying mass spectrometer machine.  For the new study, rather than sampling pieces of the eggs, they used Raman spectroscopy —hitting the samples with a laser and detecting the wavelengths of the light that bounces back. The colors of the scattered light reveal the kinds of molecules present in the eggs.  The researchers sampled 19 eggs from the group that includes crocodilians and dinosaurs.  Pigment did not occur in the crocodilians or the sauropods, but did in the theropods—long thought to be the dinosaur group that evolved to become birds.

For a long time bird experts assumed that egg color appeared in modern birds’ eggs multiple times, independently.  Modern birds use only two pigments — blue-green biliverdin and red-brown protoporphyrin IX — to create all of the various egg colors, spots, and speckles.  They found the pigments in eggshells belonging to Eumaniraptoran dinosaurs, which include small, carnivorous dinosaurs such as Velociraptor.

Contrary to “Jurassic Park” movies, Velociraptors probably looked like this…The inference is that egg color evolved along with open nesting habits to protect the eggs from predators.  Colored eggs have been considered a unique bird characteristic for over a century but the researches now suspect that like feathers and wishbones, egg color evolved in their dinosaur predecessors long before birds appeared.”

It will be interesting to see how young earth creationists try to handle this latest data.  The YECs have a tough time with the tremendous finds in the last decade of feathers on dinosaurs.  In a May 30, 2015 article in Answers in Genesis, Avery Foley says:

Did dinosaurs have feathers? In a biblical worldview, we do not expect to find feathered dinosaurs. Currently the evidence does not support the idea that dinosaurs were covered in feathers. Now while we may not know for sure what dinosaurs looked like, what we do know is that birds did not evolve from dinosaurs.

One has to ask upon reading this “how does a biblical worldview inform us that dinosaurs didn’t have feathers?”  Why couldn’t they have feathers?  Foley seems to just assume that the exclusive defining characteristic of a bird is having feathers and thus it would be impossible for a dinosaur to have them. Why?  The bible does not define birds as synonymous with feathers.  In fact the bible does not even define the flying things as synonymous with what scientists call birds since bats and pterodactyls also fly and they lack feathers.  Why couldn’t God have made some dinosaurs with feathers?  Even if most dinosaurs did not have feathers that would not preclude some dinosaurs from having them.  Foley follows here definitive statement about feathered dinosaurs with “we may not know for sure what dinosaurs looked like” and yet her biblical worldview is somehow informing her that dinosaurs would not have had feathers?  She is very confused.

A dinosaur fossil with preservation of feathers.

The problem for YECs is the Liaoning Province in northeastern China.  This area, 120 million years ago, was forested lakesides filled with diverse wildlife. Nearby active volcanoes would periodically erupt, sending clouds of poisonous gas and ash into the air, and killing anything in the way. The gas killed any living thing and the dead were sometimes covered with a fine powder of volcanic ash, protecting their bodies, and enabling preservation in great detail.

Those details continue to support the evolutionary paradigm that dinosaurs evolved into birds.  The colored egg data is one more piece of evidence that fails to falsify the evolutionary hypothesis.  In point of fact, birds are dinosaurs.   Birds are utterly amazing creatures.  Dinosaurs are also amazing creatures.  They captivate the imagination like no other beasts real or imagined.  I find it both emotionally and intellectually satisfying that God preserved these animals through the creative process of evolving them into the fascinating and wondrous kingdom of birds.

52 thoughts on “Did Birds Get Their Colorful, Speckled Eggs From Dinosaurs?

  1. a carnivorous, toothy, bad-tempered chicken.

    Ever gotten spurred (or close to it) by a rooster?


  2. For all its worth, the YECs didn’t use the Missing Link argument after that.

    Same with the “Armageddon Proof” of the THIN surface dust layer on the moon when I pointed out that shields the rock below from cosmic ray breakdown. Armageddon proofs like that can only indicate a MINIMUM age, after which the system reaches equilibrium.


  3. I find it both emotionally and intellectually satisfying to view the velociraptor as a carnivorous, toothy, bad-tempered chicken. The idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs connects us in a very direct way to geologic ages far older than our own. Life is so much richer and more incredible if you don’t try to cram all its wonders into a paltry 6-10,000 years. The more we learn, the more amazing it gets.


  4. Yeah. Back when never-ending YEC fights were tearing apart the old God’s Creatures Yahoogroup, I posted how the “missing link” argument was RIGGED from the start. Here’s my example:

    1) Take a handful of change from your pocket. Each coin represents a fossil in an evolutionary sequence. Note that like fossils, there is a FINITE number of coins.
    2) Set down two of the coins about 18″/half a meter apart. This represents the beginning and end of the sequence.
    3) YEC points to the gap between. “WHERE’S THE MISSING LINK?”
    4) Place a coin between the two for the intermediate step.
    5) YEC points to the two gaps between the three coins. “WHERE’S THE MISSING LINKS? HUH? HUH? HUH?”
    6) Place two coins into the two gaps.
    7) YEC points to the four gaps between the three coins. “WHERE’S THE MISSING LINKS? HUH? HUH? HUH?”
    8) Repeat steps 4 thru 7 until you run out of coins; remember, you have only a finite number of coins/fossils.


  5. Christiane, after seeing “the dog return to its vomit, the sow return to its mire, and the burnt fool’s bandaged finger wobble right back into the fire” over and over and over for 30, 40, 50 years, “the urge to choke the stupid out of people” can just get overwhelming.

    high priests bow before their ‘annointed’ king in that big ‘ole white-washed house

    With Christian Leaders leading the Praise and Adoration with cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer while Born-Again Evangelicals chorus “AAAAAAA-MENNNNN!!!”

    how soon, O Lord, how soon?

    That is something you should NEVER say in front of a survivor of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay and Christians For Nuclear War.


  6. Yeah, they’re called the Santa Anas.
    They blow off the Nevada Basin and other inland deserts, rocketing down through the passes of the Coastal Ranges to sweep all of SoCal — high and HOT winds.


  7. Actually, they haven’t.

    But drawings are always showing up.

    “Gosh, this new drawing proves the missing link.”


  8. C.S. Lewis also makes a distinction somewhere between suffering and pain in non-human animals. I never really understood what he was saying. I’m not sure I understand your distinction; could you give a little more explanation of what you mean, and whether you think that animals are less capable of or less prone to suffering, as opposed to feeling pain, than humans?


  9. > You dismiss the suffering of innumerable creatures …

    No I don’t. But that is not the totality. I grew up surrounded by animals – very very few of which appeared to be depressed, miserable, or suffering. There was pain, yes, but I am skeptical how much “suffering” there was.

    Overall most things very much appear to enjoy being what they are; goats most especially.

    I do not see death as a total negation of that.


  10. those winds that used to come down into San Diego were so hot and strong . . . I think they called them the Santa Ana winds

    we will pray for you,
    California has enough trouble for one week, yep


  11. “Contrary to “Jurassic Park” movies, Velociraptors probably looked like this…The inference is that egg color evolved along with open nesting habits to protect the eggs from predators.” (see drawing above in post)

    Hello Mike-the-Geologist,
    your illustration looks much more like a colorful Dodo bird than the fearsome velociraptors of ‘Jurassic Park’. I look at the drawings of Dodo birds and I’ve always laughed at how funny they must have presented themselves. Now, if I see a picture of a Dodo, it might still be a challenge not to giggle.

    truth is, your illustration, rather than fearsome, appears more adapted to Sesame Street . . . . but IF we start the newest generation of toddlers off with your illustration as fierce, it might work that in thirty years, the colorful feathered raptor will be much feared indeed . . . too late for me, I’ve seen ‘Jurassic Park’ in a large dark theatre with an enormous sound system . . . . the film’s images are permanently imprinted on my psyche and that Dodo-bird-resembling-raptor just doesn’t cut it for comparison . . . . .


  12. good choice, Headless . . . . Dylan nails it

    great lyrics and yeah, we’ve seen all this ‘cruelty’ before . . . . a merciless cruelty that targets all before it whilst the ‘nationalists’ high priests bow before their ‘annointed’ king in that big ‘ole white-washed house

    how soon, O Lord, how soon?


  13. I think I had one of the speckled dino eggs on my sausage McMuffin today. Not bad, killed the taste of the prehistoric sausage, better than the chicken McDroppings


  14. You dismiss the suffering of innumerable creatures from the beginning of life with a deft theological hand. Maybe death was a necessary on the way to the God-man, but one wonders why it had to be so torturous, so excruciating, in so many cases. It seems sadistic, and that’s why it’s easy for me to understand the revulsion of the Gnostics for the creator god/demiurge.


  15. The war monkey.

    Gotta love him, poor soul.

    I keep remembering that the whole point of biological evolution, red in tooth and claw, is part of that long and punctilious process that St. Maximos called ‘the means by which God became man’, so that what follows is the equally punctilious process whereby ‘man becomes God’.

    It’s not like the winners in the evolutionary tournament got to escape death, anyway. What they got to do was reproduce. As someone who is not likely to see grandchildren, I understand the sentiment.


  16. I just don’t see beauty in the processes that formed life on this planet; too much suffering, as well as death. I can’t square it with the original intention of a good God. It seems more tolerable if I think of it as an adaptation itself, perhaps to a primordial corruption of God’s original intentions by intelligent being, fallen angels perhaps, long before life ever arose on the planet. But of course I can’t know if that’s what happened.


  17. I have to agree with you. I understand the significance of the comments talking about the increased degree that cooperation is accorded in evolutionary theory, but the vast majority of mutations of life forms were and still are nonadaptive, and lead to the quick extinction of the forms embodying them. The predators pick off the young, the weak, and the sick when hunting a herd; if it were not so, if the strong and those in the throes of vitality died instead, the herd and ultimately the species would not survive. Few forms even survive long enough to propagate a “successful” species overtime, compared to the enormous numbers that don’t. But let’s face it, in the long run, none survive, and the real issue is the enormous suffering and death that the world has undergone from the beginning of life. It’s just plain ugly and torturous, and the processes that support it all are hard to square with the God on the cross of Jesus Christ.


  18. Paradise is directly East ot Chico and directly North of Oroville, just beyond the northermost arm of Lake Oroville.


  19. “Did dinosaurs have feathers? In a biblical worldview, we do not expect to find feathered dinosaurs.”
    This illustrates perfectly what a “biblical worldview” really means – it means believing whatever it was you were taught as a kid about anything, whether about the Bible, the world, creation or anything else. The absolute key is to refuse to believe that anything is uncertain, anything unknown, anything is different from what we believe right now, which we have always believed, will always believe and cannot possibly be doubted.
    Dinosaurs are supposed to look like lizards, because that is what dinosaurs are supposed to look like. Anything else is anarchy and heresy.


  20. And please pray for us again in California. The whole state is tinder-dry, with red flag warnings just about everywhere, and a new fire has erupted in the hills above Paradise, in Butte County. That’s about 3 1/2 hours east of me, on the east side of the Central Valley – just starting into the foothills of the Sierras, rugged country. The fire started early this morning and grew to 5000 acres in 3 hours due to the wind. Since the wind is blowing east to west, we’re getting a LOT of smoke where I am. The smoke is getting pushed down by a cold inversion layer in the upper atmosphere, so that the sky here at noon is deep red-orange, like a high flame-colored fog, and it’s so dark that our street lights have come on. It could be dinosaur days again….

    Anyway, there are people in danger (again) out here. Lord, have mercy.



  21. Robert,

    created beings can’t contain the Source of Life itself – created life forms are intrinsically mortal, subject to death. Things would die even if their lives weren’t taken by some other creature. It is indeed disturbing. Some of the Eastern Fathers thought that in the very next instant after their creation, the first humans turn from God; Eden wasn’t the place of ultimate perfection. And clearly, in terms of natural history, death existed prior to the advent of Homo sapiens.

    But death doesn’t get the last word.

    Here’s St Thomas of Durham and St Andrews:

    “Reality as we know it is the result of a creator god bringing into being
    a world that is other than himself, and yet which is full of his glory.
    It was always the intention of this god
    that creation should one day be flooded with his own life,
    in a way for which it was prepared from the beginning.
    As part of the means to this end,
    the creator brought into being a creature which,
    by bearing the creator’s image,
    would bring his wise and loving care to bear upon this creation.
    By a tragic irony, the creature in question rebelled against this intention.
    But the creator has solved this problem in principle
    in an entirely appropriate way, and as a result is now
    moving the creation once more toward its originally intended goal.
    The implementation of this solution now involves
    the indwelling of this god within his human creatures
    and ultimately within the whole creation,
    transforming it into that for which it was made in the beginning.”

    N.T. Wright, “The New Testament and the People of God” 97-98

    And here’s St Paul:

    For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. -Rom 8.19-25

    May God grant us all the patience to hope, and hope in patience.



  22. You do know what that border deployment was originally called, don’t you?
    “Operation Faithful Patriot”.

    hard to fathom the depth of such cruelty

    Not for me.
    In the words of the prophet Robert Zimmerman:


  23. I hate to bring it up here, since most people here seem to view the Adam and Eve/Fall in the Garden as “story” than fact, but it could be that God’s intention was for life on Earth to be much more co-existent than it currently is. Lions and lambs lying together, dogs and cats playing together…etc.

    Maybe the answer is that Adam and Eve, the apple, the serpent, ruined that plan. Thus, we have what we have today. It’s not “of God,” it’s of man.


  24. Headless, you are a one-man army against a virulent hypocrisy . . . . . Bravo!

    them fundamentalists what denies the ‘survival of the fittest’ see no conflict between their denial and their open worship of a hideous mendacity and power at the expense of a few thousand poor people coming north to a brutal border which remains the only hope they have for a better life for their children

    hard to fathom the depth of such cruelty


  25. Because dragons are scaly, not feathered, and dinosaurs before Noah’s Flood are the original source of dragons, DUH! Jack Chick says so!


  26. And Darwin defined “Survival of the Fittest” entirely in terms of relative reproductive success over time. (Think “Quiverfull, i.e. Outbreed the Heathen”.) Improvement in reproductive success could be achieved by individual competition,, or by co-operation; there’s a Stephen Jay Gould essay about that very subject called “Kropotkin was no Crackpot”.


  27. It will be interesting to see how young earth creationists try to handle this latest data.

    How else?
    (insert SCRIPTURE proof text zip codes here…)”


  28. > Does anyone imagine Homo Sap will last nearly so long?

    Hard to imagine. Very very hard.

    > the jury is still out on the long term survival value of intelligence

    Hrm, not sure. Intelligence seems to be very effective, although clearly it can be a double edged sword. I suspect one could have Intelligence minus some of that double edgness; the extreme double edgness may be due to that Intelligence currently being manifest in a creature [humans] only a brief time removed from our role as the Alpha-Predator Of All Alpha-Predators [flip sde, Alpha-Predator Of All Alpha-Predators provided the generous energy budget to facilitate great gobs of brainy goo – humans are the gas guzzling SUVs of the animal kingdom]. We like to look at culture, poetry, religion, etc… as hallmark attributes of humanism – – – but all that rests on the foundation that we were first crazy good at killing things; a healthy human in their prime could run down to exhaustion any other creature by virtual of big lungs, bipedalism, and the vastly underappreciated magic of sweat – then give that creature a spear, then an alliance with the wolf – he’s a death machine.


  29. ” Looked at purely objectively the jury is still out on the long term survival value of intelligence. Our fate may have been sealed the first time some link stopped painting himself blue and made shapes on the wall of his cave.”

    in South America’s Patagonia region: The Cueva de los Manos, where prehistoric people made a statement ‘we were here’, ‘we existed’ ‘we were human persons’ . . . . something very moving about their witness, and very, very human, to leave a record of their having lived.


  30. Robert it IS disturbing. Which is why the folks who say that evolution is merely the way God chose to create life on earth really haven’t thought it through. Evolutionary cooperation is fine but the history of life is nevertheless a bloodbath. Life is that thing which survives by consuming itself. Death and suffering are not the result of some primordial tragedy (certainly not OUR fault) but are inherent in the process. In many ways an appalling vision. The sensitive soul recoils from this vision and attempts by various and sundry means to accommodate itself to this reality. (Including that classic strategy – denial.)

    There are no easy answers, but why should there be?


  31. Good point. The dinosaurs had their shot. They are synonymous with obsolescence but they lasted dang near 200 million years. Does anyone imagine Homo Sap will last nearly so long? Looked at purely objectively the jury is still out on the long term survival value of intelligence. Our fate may have been sealed the first time some link stopped painting himself blue and made shapes on the wall of his cave.


  32. > But he didn’t preserve the big guys

    They had the world for a bafflingly long time.

    There were more years between Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Stegosaurus than there are yet between Stegosaurus and Us.

    How can one have a world where things can grow and change, and new things come to be, if nothing that ever was may pass from being? That would make the world little different than the terrarium on the mantle.

    To all things there is a season; to deny this is Tolkien’s “Sin Of The Embalmer”. That is discomfiting, but certainly not unbiblical.


  33. Demise is unavoidable! So we can be pessimistic together in that.

    Being grumpy and anti-social leads leads to non-optimal consequences prior to demise. 🙂


  34. This.

    And challenges to “survival of the fittest” are certainly not new.

    Setting aside biological evolution one can turn to Socio-economics and find the same thing; in a set of any significant size network benefits wash away nearly every other factor in life expectancy, economic prosperity, happiness, etc.. [and, flip-side, why the principle goal of bad people to is prevent the formation of such networks].

    It is a currently common trope to point out the ‘sociopathic’ tendencies of those in positions of power, politicians, CEOs, etc… however that narrative requires clipping off the fact that such people also, universally, expend significant energy and resources maintaining a far reaching social network [which is a not very that ‘sociopathic’ behavior].

    In a cold eyed analysis I am confident both the animal kingdom and human society demonstrates the consistent maximal profitability of coopetition [not a misspelling: the optimal path is to “win” **without** defeating your opponent(s)].

    We have an example in our own homes. Somewhere in eastern europe, on some long cold pleistocene night, a few smallish but heavy headed bone-eater proto-wolves [canis mosbachensis] sat watching a group of hominids hunched around a fire at the mouth of their cave; waiting for them to take the soft bits from their meal and release the good hard bits. Then the hominids would sleep safely in their cave as the heavy headed bone-eaters crunched away, guardians at the door. Notable in all the prey remains mined out of the caves of eastern Europe, among the abundance of petrified canis feces, is the absence of canis bones. – The children of both groups would go on to touch every corner of the planet.


  35. I find it both emotionally and intellectually satisfying that God preserved these animals….

    But he didn’t preserve the big guys — they’re all a goner. He seems to only preserve a few forms — a holy remnant?

    Also: one long comment I made a little earlier disappeared into the internet ether. Maybe it was passed over by evolution, lacking adaptive characteristics. But if not, I wonder if you could save it from the void.


  36. Yeah, “In a biblical worldview, we do not expect to find feathered dinosaurs.”; Double Plus Huh?


  37. Birds are utterly amazing creatures. Dinosaurs are also amazing creatures. They captivate the imagination like no other beasts real or imagined. I find it both emotionally and intellectually satisfying that God preserved these animals through the creative process of evolving them into the fascinating and wondrous kingdom of birds.

    I agree with the sentiment about dinosaurs and birds being creatures. I also believe, and have since I was a child, the biological evolution is the way that all living things have developed. But I don’t find it “intellectually satisfying that God preserved these animals through the creative process of evolving them….”. Don’t misunderstand me: I accept intellectually that this is the way these animals developed, but I don’t find any satisfaction in it. It makes me wonder why God, long before humans came on the scene, would create a world with processes in which the strong and fit, those few with adaptive characteristics, were selected to survive and thrive in all their multiplicity and beauty, while the weak, broken, and maladapted perished in prodigious numbers far outstripping the few surviving forms. What kind of a God, what kind of character, does he have? He seems more like a God born out of Social Darwinists theory than the loving and self-giving God revealed in the crucified Jesus Christ, who chose the weak and the poor, the losers and powerless, as his followers, friends, and even his form. It just doesn’t add up to me; no bridge seems to exist between the scientific reality and the the theological inheritance. I can’t be satisfied with that, much as I have to accept it, as the state of the matter.


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