Dinosaur embryo kept from 66 million years ago found
Scientists have announced the discovery of an exquisitely preserved dinosaur embryo from at least 66 million years ago that was preparing to hatch from its egg just like a chicken.
The fossil was discovered in Ganzhou, southern China and belonged to a toothless theropod dinosaur, or oviraptorosaur, which the researchers dubbed “Baby Yingliang.”
Ma and colleagues found Baby Yingliang’s head lay below its body, with the feet on either side and back curled – a posture that was previously unseen in dinosaurs, but similar to modern birds.
Embryos that fail to tuck have a higher chance of dying after a hatching that is unsucessful.
“This indicates that such behaviour in modern birds first evolved and originated among their dinosaur ancestors,” said Ma.
Oviraptorosaurs, which means “egg thief lizards”, were feathered dinosaurs that lived in what is now Asia and North America during the Late Cretaceous period.
Baby Yingliang measures about 27cm (10.6 inches) long from head to tail and lies inside a 17cm- (6.6 inch)-long egg at the Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum.
Researchers believe the creature is between 72 and 66 million years old, and was probably preserved by a sudden mudslide that buried the egg, protecting it from scavengers for aeons.
The research team suspected they might contain unborn dinosaurs, and scraped off part of Baby Yingliang’s eggshell to uncover the embryo hidden within.