Scientists on Tuesday announced the discovery of a perfectly preserved dinosaur embryo that is at least 66 million years old and ready to hatch.
The fossil was found in Ganshaw, southern China, and belongs to the toothless thyropod dinosaur, or oviraptosaurus, which scientists call the “Baby Yingliang”.
“It’s one of the best dinosaur embryos ever found,” Fion Wise, a researcher at the University of Birmingham and co-author of the publication in the journal Science, told AFP.
May and colleagues found the embryo, with its head tucked under its body, its feet on either side, and its back curved, a seat never seen before in dinosaurs but similar to that of modern birds.
In birds, this behavior is regulated by the central nervous system, which is called “folding”. Chicks preparing to hatch place their heads under the right wing and break the bark with their beaks to maintain stability.
Embryos that fail to form this position are more likely to die from a failed hatch.
“This suggests that this behavior in modern birds first evolved among their ancestral dinosaurs,” Ma said.
An alternative to this fold would be like modern crocodiles do. In order to stretch, they bend their head to the chest and position themselves as if sitting.
In a warehouse for decades
Oviroprotosaurs, or “egg-stealing lizards,” were feathered dinosaurs that lived in Asia and North America during the late Cretaceous.
They had a wide variety of beaks and diets, ranging in size from a modern turkey to a giant gigantopter eight meters long.
The 27 cm long “Yingliang Baby” from head to tail is found inside a 17 cm egg at the Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum.
The creature, which is 66 to 72 million years old, is believed by researchers to have been preserved as a result of the flood when eggs were buried, which has long protected them from burrows.
When it matures, it grows to a height of two or three meters and eats the plants.
This specimen is one of many egg fossils that have been forgotten in an investment for decades.
A team of scientists suspected they had unborn dinosaurs scraped off part of the egg and found the embryo inside.
“This dinosaur embryo inside this egg is one of the most beautiful fossils I’ve ever seen,” said Steve Brusat, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and a member of the research team.
“This tiny dinosaur in its prenatal state is very similar to a baby bird curled up in its egg, giving further evidence that many of today’s bird traits evolved from their dinosaur ancestors,” he said.
To study “Baby Yingliang” in more detail, scientists hope to use advanced scanning techniques to map its entire skeleton, including the bones of the skull, because part of its body is still covered in rock.
Musicaholic. Twitter guru. Total bacon fanatic. Zombie ninja. Freelance student. Coffee fan. Gamer.