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125 million-year-old fossil dinosaur among the ashes of the “Chinese Pompeii”

125 million-year-old fossil dinosaur among the ashes of the “Chinese Pompeii”

Among the oldest strata of the volcanic formation of Yixianin the north-east of China, precisely in the beds of Lujiatun, a team of archaeologists and paleontologists, has discovered the fossil of a new dinosaur species digger.

According to the researchers, the animals were trapped while resting in their burrows, by a volcanic eruption that took them by surprise. The Yixian site is in fact known as the “Chinese Pompeii” of the dinosaur era. Its formation dates back to the late Cretaceous, at the beginning of the Aptian era (125-113 million years ago).

According to the paleontologist Pascal Godefroit of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, these dinosaurs “were quickly covered with fine volcanic sediments while they were still alive or shortly after their death.”

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The “Chinese Pompeii”, a 3D window on the era of the dinosaurs

Lujiatun’s bed, in the Yixian Formation, is known for the presence of some of the most spectacular vertebrate fossils of the lower Cretaceous group. The specimens are preserved both articulated and three-dimensionalunlike most fossils from this era, which are two-dimensional fossils, created by the compression of sediments.

In “Chinese Pompeii” instead, the dinosaurs and other animals were killed and buried by volcanic debris and ash. This was initially thought to have happened in a single catastrophic event. But further studies by the Lujiatun Unit show that dinosaurs and other fossils they were not killed by a single ash volcanic, but in multiple flood events with a high load of volcanic debris.

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A small burrowing dinosaur with rabbit-like characteristics

This new species of ornithopod dinosaur has been given the name of Changmiania liaoningensis, from the Chinese word “changmian”, which means “eternal sleep”. It was about a small herbivore which according to the researchers, based on the shape and characteristics of the tail and legs, it had to be able to run very fast.

According to Godefroit some features of the skeleton of this dinosaur about 1.2 meters long “Suggest that the Changmiania probably he dug holes, just like today’s rabbits do. The neck and forearms are in fact very short but sturdy, and the shoulder blades have the characteristics of burrowing vertebrates, as well as the upper part of the shovel-shaped snout. “

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Images: source PeerJ