Dinosaur egg find for first time in Britain

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The first ever dinosaur egg remains to be unearthed in Britain have been discovered in a quarry on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. Paul Ensom, a palaeontologist and keeper of geology at the Yorkshire Museum in York, has found hundreds of fragments of eggshell belonging to two species of dinosaur which inhabited Britain 140 million years ago.

At least one of the species represented probably belonged to the long- necked, long-tailed vegetarian sauropod family of dinosaurs - the largest animals the world has ever seen.

The largest eggshell fragment measures just two millimetres by two and a half, with smaller fragments weighing in at just half a millimetre across.

The eggs were laid some distance away and were broken up by other animals, the resultant fragments being carried by seasonal rivers and deposited in a large freshwater lake.

Mr Ensom has also discovered half of the back leg of a dinosaur embryo. Measuring just two millimetres in length, it is the first such fossil to be discovered in Britain.

Along with the thousands of egg fragments, Mr Ensom and his colleagues have unearthed over half a million reptile teeth, including many belonging to vegetarian and meat-eating dinosaurs, as well as flying pterosaur reptiles, frogs and salamandas.

The excavation has also yielded over 700 mammal teeth - and thousands of bones belonging to literally dozens of species of different animals. So far an analysis of the material has revealed the existence of five new mammal species - all primitive early types, now extinct. It has also yielded the earliest turtle egg remains ever found in Britain.

The fossils date from the Lower Cretaceous period when Britain was part of a joint North America/Eurasian super continent and would have been 15 degrees south of its present latitude.