We Finally Know What The Huge 'Thing' Fossil From Antarctica Actually Is

Katie Ramirez
June 21, 2020

After microscopes were used to study the specimen, they found several layers of membrane, which indicated that the fossil was really an egg.

For years it was nicknamed "The Thing" because the scientists didn't know what it was, but after sitting in a miscellaneous box at the Natural History Museum in Chile for nearly a decade, someone finally had an idea. According to researchers, the huge egg was apparently laid by a sea monster about 68 million years ago.

The paper does not discuss how the ancient reptile might have laid the eggs.

But he didn't find anyone until Professor Clarke visited the museum 2011 - he showed "The Thing" to Clarke and after a few minutes she said "I can see a deflated egg".

While how big is the egg suggested it belonged to an animal the size of a large dinosaur, its soft shell was "completely unlike a dinosaur egg", Lucas Legendre, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, said. And, taking various data of that sort, the size of the egg versus adult body size, you can perform an equation of how they change and project, make an estimation, of what the size of the mosasaur was, the giant lizard, that laid the egg.

Scientists hypothesized that the egg found in Antarctica was laid by an extinct, giant marine reptile, like a mosasaur. However, because the fossil egg is hatched and contains no skeleton, Dr Legendre had to use other means to pinpoint the type of reptile which had laid it.

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After more than eight years of investigation together with American experts from the University of Texas at Austin, this Wednesday the prestigious magazine Nature published the conclusion.

It was discovered among the rocks by some Chilean scientists at a spot where they also unearthed some bones from mosasaurs and another slightly more famous marine dinosaur, the plesiosaur.

"The almost-complete, football-sized soft-shelled egg is one of the largest eggs ever described", corresponding author Julia Clarke, also of UT, said.

The answer, he theorised, was that early dinosaurs laid soft-shell eggs that were destroyed and not fossilised.

Laying the eggs would require the reptile to wriggle its tail on shore while staying mostly submerged - and supported - by water.

The supersized soft-shelled egg belonged to an ancient sea lizard known as a mosasau, and is second only in size to the extinct Madagascan elephant bird egg. The animal's eggs measured 13 in (33 cm) long and had a liquid capacity of 8.5 litres - roughly equivalent to seven ostrich eggs, according to Guinness World Records.

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