fossils of a baby dinosaur

The fossils of a baby dinosaur in eggs, of around 66 million years old are found in China and are right now the center of discussion all over the world. Interestingly the well-kept dinosaur embryo inside the egg was collected by researchers 20 years before in Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province of southern China.

Yingliang Group is a company that mines stones and kept the egg fossils in storage for 10 years as they thought it might have egg fossils. During the recent construction work in their Museum named Yingliang Stone Natural History Museum, boxes of fossils were looked upon and observed then. The staff of the museum firstly figured out egg as dinosaur egg, as they saw a few bones from a disfigured cross-section of one of the eggs. The embryo is named “Baby Yingliang”.

Photo of the oviraptorosaur embryo “Baby Yingliang.” Credit: Xing et al./iScience

The embryo can be easily seen as curled up in its approximately 6-inch long eggshell. The embryo is very much similar to the embryo of today’s bird at that stage, but the dinosaur has small arms and claws rather than wings as in birds. There are astonishing similarities found between theropod dinosaurs and birds, to which they evolved. This discovery increased the chances that evolutionary connections between 21st-century birds and extinct dinosaurs become deeper than assumed earlier.

A rare embryo of the baby dinosaur

The embryo in the found egg is of bird-like oviraptorosaurs, which belong to the theropod group. The word theropod means “beast foot,” but the feet of theropods look like that of birds. Theropod type dinosaurs have hollow bones, toes with three limbs that were very similar to dinosaur ancestry which then transformed into modern birds. They had beaks and even feathers on their arms, despite that they were not able to fly and used their feathers to keep and cover eggs beneath in the nest.

The researchers are considering this discovery important as the fossils of embryonic dinosaurs are very rare. Researchers found them only in a few places. This is the first time when a different posture has been observed known as “tucking” in which the head is under the arm, while other fossils of a dinosaur embryo have different “egg teeth” that are probably used to break their eggshells.

A representation of close-to-hatching oviraptorosaur dinosaur embryo based on the newly found embryo

Researchers said that the tucking-like posture evolved due to the hard shells of oviraptorosaurs, as it protects the environment, like in birds. The fossilized dinosaur eggs have been discovered in the past 100 years but this well preserved and maintained embryo is very rare and different.

What now with this fossils of a baby dinosaur?

Researchers with available resources now look to compare the recently found with two other oviraptor eggs that also have embryos in them, with different curling postures that can represent various tucking stages during the development of an embryo. The embryo’s posture is different and not observed even in earlier non-avian dinosaurs making it the center of attraction. Scientists are trying to imaging its internal anatomy as few of its body parts are still beneath rocks. Their discovery can power up the understanding of dinosaurs.


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