Perfectly preserved baby dinosaur discovered inside fossilized egg
An unprecedented fossil of a baby dinosaur was discovered curled up perfectly inside a fossilized egg. This sheds more light on the links between dinosaurs and birds.
The 70-million-year-old fossil is a preserved embryonic skeleton of an oviraptorid dinosaur. It is nicknamed Baby Yingliang, after the name of the Chinese museum which houses the fossil.
According to Darla Zelenitsky, an associate professor in the department of geoscience at the University of Calgary in Canada, Baby dinosaur bones are very fragile and rare. Therefore, having found one in its best-preserved form marks it as one of the lucky finds.
Ms Zelenitsky, a co-author of the research published in the journal iScience on Tuesday, said that it is an ‘amazing specimen’ and she has never seen anything like this even after working on dinosaur eggs for 25 years.
“Up until now, little has been known of what was going on inside a dinosaur’s egg prior to hatching, as there are so few embryonic skeletons, particularly those that are complete and preserved in a life pose,” she further added.
The egg is around 17 centimetres long and the baby dinosaur was estimated to be 27 centimetres long from head to tail. Researchers believe that if it would have hatched and lived as an adult then it might have grown up to two to three meters long.
The researchers from China, the UK and Canada studied the positions of the baby Yingliang and found that the baby dinosaur was moving inside the egg and changing positions before in a way similar to baby birds.
In birds, such movements are called tucking, which is controlled by the central nervous system and is critical for successful hatching.
“We were surprised to see this embryo beautifully preserved inside a dinosaur egg, lying in a bird-like posture. This posture had not been recognised in non-avian dinosaurs before,” said the experts.
All birds have directly evolved from a group of two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods. Some other variants of this species are the tall Tyrannosaurus rex and the smaller velociraptors.
Ms Zelenitsky also said that the pre hatching behaviour isn’t the only thing birds have inherited from their dinosaur ancestors. The way birds sit on their eggs to provide warmth to incubate them is similar to what non-avian dinosaurs used to do.
The fossil was found in the Jiangxi province of China and was discovered by Liang Liu in 2000. Liang is a director of a Chinese stone company called Yingliang Group.
Baby Yingliang’s fossil was then preserved in the storage of the museum and got largely forgotten for about 10 years. Recently, the museum staff sorted through the boxes and unearthed the fossil during the construction of the Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum. The museum is financially supported by the company.