“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”: A prehistoric concept?

A team of biologists from the University have discovered that the proverb of not putting all your eggs in one basket, did literally apply to one of the best known dinosaurs, Diplodocus.

Despite being one of the largest dinosaurs to have walked the earth, scientists have puzzled for many years as to the relatively small size of the sauropods eggs, with both clutch size and individual egg size being much smaller than might be expected, especially in relation to modern egg-laying animals.

Dr Charles Deeming, Programme Leader for Zoology, Animal Behaviour Science and Conservation Biology, one of the co-authors of the study says: “We think that a long incubation period of sauropods is likely to have led to very high mortality through predation. We suggest that females laid their eggs in small clutches, possibly in different nesting sites, as an adaptive strategy to mitigate the high predation risk associated with long time of exposure in the egg stage”.


The research estimated that the time from laying, in underground nests, to hatching of eggs was between 65-82 days, and that the long incubation time (increasing the risk of attack by predators), coupled with low temperatures in the nest, may have be significant in egg and clutch size.

In relation to modern egg-laying animals, whilst an ostrich weighs around 100kg and lays a 1.5kg egg, a sauropod dinosaur such as Diplodocus might have been 50 times heavier than an adult ostrich, but its eggs were only a little heavier than an ostrich egg.

The findings are published the Paleontological Society’s summer 2014 journal “Paleobiology”: Graeme
D Ruxton, Geoffrey F Birchard, D Charles Deeming ‘Incubation time as an important influence on egg production and distribution into clutches for sauropod dinosaurs’ Paleobiology 40(3):323-330. 2014 DOI:
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July 2014




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