A team of Paleontologists working in north-central Montana has unearthed the first whole dinosaur eggs ever found in North America.

The discovery came shortly before an oil company exploration crew was to begin blasting in the area in a search for oil and gas.

Along with the eggs, the team found fragments of bone indicating that the dinosaurs may have been carnivorous. If so, according to John Horner, the Princeton University paleontologist who led the team, these would be the first eggs of carnivorous dinosaurs ever discovered. Eggs from herbivorous dinosaurs have been found in Mongolia and in southern France.

The dinosaur search began last summer, when the team discovered a nest of 15 duck-billed herbivores. The geologic formation in which the eggs were found is a mixture of mudstones and limestones laid down more than 80 million years ago.

This summer the crew, led by Horner and Montana high school science teacher Robert Makela, went back for more and brought 10 volunteers, including Princeton geology major Fran Tannenbaum of Brooklyn. The exploration took place between June 18 and July 12.

"We had walked by that area so many times, and we never really saw anything, but the I spotted larged pieces of eggshell. I got very excited, and began crawling on my knees up a hill, and on the overhanging rock I saw the egg sticking out," Tannenbaum said. Tannenbaum instantly knew what she had found. "I found an egg" she yelled to her companions.

Less than 100 yards away, the Shell Oil Co. crew had set up a seismic exploration line -- a series of blasts that send out shock waves from which engineers can deduce the shape of subsurface rock formations and had intended to bring heavy equipment through the area. But after learning of the discovery, the Shell crew was able to move its operations far enough away so as not to distrub the site.

Over the next several days the team found more than 40 eggs in 30 different nesting spots and small jawbone fragments with microscopic teeth, indicating that some of the dinosaurs might have been carnivores.

The eggs are 6 inches long and 4 inches wide and have a black pebbled exterior. The rock-hard eggs are to be shipped to Princeton for X-ray tests. If the eggs had been fertilized, the scientists say, the eggs might reveal small skeletons.

It is the first time eggs have been found in association with bone fragments in North America, and, if some of the eggs turn out to be those of carnivorous dinosaurs, they would be the first fossils of their kind found anywhere in the world.

Scientists at Princeton speculate that the carnivore may be one known as the troadon, though so little is know of this species that they cannot tell what it looked like or even how big it was.

Because the Montana eggs and bones were found in clusters, scientists believe the dianosaurs must have cared for their young far more than modern reptiles.

Last year, the skull of an adult dinosaur was found near a nest of 3-foot-long baby dinosaur bones. The skull was unlike that of any other dinosaur discovered before, but there is still no way to be sure the babies are the same species as the adult because the babies' skulls were crushed.

According to Tannenbaum, further explorations and diggings will take place in the fertile Montana area.