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Perfectly preserved dinosaur embryo from 66 million years ago discovered in China

Perfectly preserved dinosaur embryo from 66 million years ago discovered in China

Scientists have announced the discovery of a exquisitely preserved dinosaur embryo from at least 66 million years ago preparing to hatch from its egg just like a chick. The fossil was discovered in Ganzhou, southern China, and belonged to a toothless theropod dinosauror oviraptorosaurus, which the researchers dubbed “Baby Yingliang”.

“It is one of the best dinosaur embryos ever found in history,” University of Birmingham researcher Fion Waisum Ma, co-author of an article in iScience magazine, told AFP news agency.

Ma and colleagues found that Baby Yingliang’s head lay beneath her body, with her feet on either side and her back curled up – a posture that had never been seen before. dinosaurs, but similar to modern birds. In birds, this behavior is controlled by the central nervous system and is called ‘tucking’. Chicks preparing to hatch put their heads under the right wing to stabilize their heads while breaking the shell with their beaks. Embryos that fail to tuck up are more likely to die after an unsuccessful hatch. “This indicates that such behavior in modern birds evolved and originated in their dinosaur ancestors,” said Ma. An alternative to tucking may have been something similar to what happens in modern crocodiles, which instead assume a posture. sitting with the head folded on the chest until hatching.

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The oviraptorosaurs, meaning “egg lizards”, they were feathered dinosaurs who lived in what is now Asia and North America during the Late Cretaceous. They had varying beak shapes and diets and ranged in size from modern lower end turkeys to the massive eight meter long Gigantoraptor.

Little Yingliang measures approximately 27cm in length from head to tail and lies inside a 17cm long egg at the Yingliang Stone Natural History Museum. Researchers believe the creature has between 72 and 66 million years and that it was probably preserved from a sudden mudslide that buried the egg, protecting it from scavengers for eons. It would have grown two to three meters if it had lived to be an adult and probably would have fed on plants.

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The specimen was one of several egg fossils that have been forgotten in the deposits for decades. The research team suspected they might contain unborn dinosaurs and has scraped off part of Baby Yingliang’s eggshell to discover the embryo hidden inside. “This dinosaur embryo inside its egg is one of the most beautiful fossils I have ever seen,” Professor Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, part of the research team, said in a statement. “This little prenatal dinosaur looks just like a little bird curled up in its egg, which is further evidence that many characteristic features of today’s birds first evolved into their dinosaur ancestors.”

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The team hopes to study Baby Yingliang in more detail using advanced scanning techniques to see a complete picture of the skeleton, including the skull bones, because part of the body is still covered in rock.