CHINA: A well-preserved dinosaur embryo which is assumed to be 66-72 million years old has been unearthed in China. The embryo appeared to be curled up inside a fossilized egg and was found in the rocks of the ‘Hekou Formation’ at the Shahe Industrial Park.
The dinosaur embryo has been reportedly named ‘Baby Yingliang’. The embryo was named after the Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum in Xiamen.
This fossil from Ganzhou, in the Jiangxi Province of southern China, was hidden in storage for 15 years until the curator of the Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum, Kecheng Niu, discovered it in 2015.
“This dinosaur embryo was acquired by the director of Yingliang Group, Mr. Liang Liu, as suspected egg fossils around the year 2000,” said paper author and paleontologist Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences in Beijing.
“These specimens were identified as dinosaur egg fossils. Fossil preparation was conducted and eventually unveiled the embryo hidden inside the egg,” they added.
Several paleontologists from the University of Birmingham said that the embryo belonged to the ‘oviraptorosaurs’. The study was conducted by vertebrate paleontologist Fion Waisum Ma and her colleagues.
Ma said that the dinosaur embryos are the rarest fossils. “We are very excited about the discovery of Baby Yingliang— it is preserved in great condition and helps us answer a lot of questions about dinosaur growth and reproduction with it,” Ms. Ma said.
Oviraptors were feathered dinosaurs found in the rocks of Asia and North America. They had varied beaks and body sizes. As per the findings, the current specimen is one of the most complete dino embryos ever known.
By its feet and head position, it has been assumed that Baby Yingliang was close to hatching. The head position of the embryo was below its body, its back curled into the egg’s blunt end. In avians, this posture signifies ‘tucking’. Tucking is an embryo behavior that is critical for successful hatching. The recent discovery suggests that embryonic behavior isn’t just limited to avians and might have evolved among the dinosaurs.
Pre-hatching behavior of dinosaurs isn’t explored much by palaeontologists. The main reason behind this is the scarcity of well-preserved, articulated embryo skeletons.
The fortunate discoveries of Baby Yingliang and other closely-related embryos have paved way to make a hypothesis on how the embryo could have behaved before hatching.
According to the researchers, the embryonic dinosaur is believed to have been around 10.6 inches (27 cm) from head to tail.
Paleontologist Steve Brussate (University of Edinburgh) called the dinosaur embryo the “most beautiful fossils.”
“This little prenatal dinosaur looks just like a baby bird curled in its egg, which is yet more evidence that many features characteristic of today’s birds first evolved in their dinosaur ancestors.”