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“Dinosaur” Eggs Hatch

by Christopher Arnott | Mar 13, 2014 4:30 pm

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Several thick-shelled dark green eggs hatched Wednesday night and Thursday morning in the midst of a new Peabody Museum exhibit on baby dinosaurs.

No, it wasn’t these guys. They’re made of plastic and are on sale at the museum gift shop.

The newborn critters are emus, present-day descendants of dinosaurs. An incubator has been warming the emu eggs since they were laid in January.

The whole operation takes place within a glass case centrally located in the Tiny Titans exhibit on the museum’s first floor.

The baby birds began to appear on Wednesday. The first egg cracked just as the Peabody was closing, the emu emerging around 5:20. Sometime overnight, another emu appeared. Then Thursday morning, just around the time that the Peabody opened its doors at 10 a.m., the third bird arrived.

The Thursday morning arrival was broadcast via the Peabody’ s website, which has trained a webcam on the incubator 24/7.

The eggs came from the Songline emu farm in Gill, Mass. — six in all, from two different emu mothers. All three of the emus who’ve been born so far came from the same mother, whose eggs were labelled with numbered pink tags.

At the Peabody, the guy to whom the birds are saying “Are you my mother?” was Jim Sirch, the museum’s educational coordinator. Sirch has some experience hatching birds at the museum from a different Peabody exhibit a decade ago.

Sirch plays the role of surrogate father, turning the eggs regularly in the incubator and tapping on the shells daily with a small metal screw to simulate what the birds’ birth father would do with claws. (The species is accustomed to such stay-at-nest dads.) When the emus are born, they don’t need to be fed for a few days and are generally able to “fend for themselves,” Sirch said.

Here’s Sirch taking the newest-born emu out of the incubator and placing it with its siblings in the “Brooding Box”:

Emus (pronounced so it rhymes with “bemuse,” not “he moos”) take a couple of years to reach their full growth. As Peabody visitors saw Thursday, though, they’re born fully feathered, and are trying to walk with minutes of being born. They wear themselves out quickly, though, and collapse in a heap until they find the strength to lift their ungainly heads and necks up again.

Three eggs remained in the incubator Thursday. The next one to crack will likely be the one with the orange “10” tag (on the right in the photo above, and on the upper right as shown on the Peabody’s webcam).

The emus, in eggs or outside them, will only be at the Peabody for a couple more weeks. The rest of the Tiny Titans: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies exhibit will be up through Aug. 30.

“Come explore the extraordinary clues that tell us how dinosaurs raised their tiny titans,” the show promises.

True clue: emu.

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