Another key moment in the history of avian eggs occurred at least 150 million years before that, when a subset of four-limbed vertebrates evolved to produce amniotic eggs. The embryos within the eggs were surrounded by three fluid-filled membranes that provide nourishment, protection, and a way to breathe. The earliest amniotic eggs contained large amounts of yolk, says James R. Stewart, a reproductive physiologist at East Tennessee State University. "You still see that in birds, crocodilians, and snakes," he explains. Like other placental mammals, we humans lost our yolk somewhere along the line, but our eggs still come with a vestigial yolk sac.