Abstract

A nesting trace preserved in alluvial floodplain deposits in the Upper Cretaceous Two Medicine Formation at the Willow Creek anticline in north-central Montana contains four crushed theropod eggs referable to the oospecies Continuoolithus canadensis. These eggs immediately overlie the lower surface of a 35-cm-long × 7-cm-thick, dark-green mudstone lens, surrounded by reddish-purple mudstone. The long axes of three eggs are parallel to one another and to the lower boundary of the lens, whereas the fourth egg lies at a 30° angle to the others. A thin, 1-cm-thick organic horizon overlies the eggs, suggesting they were buried with some vegetation. Geometric modeling of the slightly asymmetrical C. canadensis eggs yields a volume and mass of approximately 194 cm3 and 205 g for each egg. This method provides a more accurate estimation for the surface area than allometric equations that are based on modern bird eggs because of the elongate shape of many non-avian theropod eggs. Pore density and water vapor conductance (GH2O) calculated from one egg in the trace and five additional C. canadensis eggs from the Willow Creek anticline vary across three regions. High, moderate, and very low GH2O characterize the equatorial zone, blunt, and tapering poles, respectively. The average GH2O for all eggs exceeds that of an avian egg of similar mass by 3.9×, thus supporting sedimentologic evidence of substrate burial during incubation.

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