Perfectly preserved baby dinosaur fossil discovered in China

A fossil unprecedented of a dinosaur baby snuggled perfectly inside your egg is shedding more light on the links between dinosaurs and birds.

The 70-million-year-old fossil preserves the embryonic skeleton of an oviraptorid dinosaur, which has been dubbed Baby Yingliang after the Chinese museum that houses the fossil. Baby dinosaur bones are small and fragile and are rarely preserved as fossils, so this is a very lucky find, said Darla Zelenitsky, an associate professor in the department of geoscience at the University of Calgary in Canada.

“It’s an amazing specimen … I’ve been working on dinosaur eggs for 25 years and haven’t seen anything like it yet,” said Zelenitsky, a co-author of the research published in the journal iScience on Tuesday.

Little was known about dinosaur eggs

Perfectly preserved baby dinosaur fossil discovered in China.

“Until now, little was known about what happened inside a dinosaur egg before hatching, as there are very few embryonic skeletons, particularly those that are complete and preserved in a living pose,” he said in an email.

The egg is about 17 centimeters (7 inches) long and the dinosaur is estimated to be 27 centimeters (11 inches) long from head to tail. Researchers believe that as an adult, if it had lived, it would have been between two and three meters long.

Researchers from China, the UK and Canada studied the positions of Baby Yingliang and other previously found oviraptorid embryos. They concluded that dinosaurs moved and changed posture before being born in a manner similar to baby birds.

Modern birds inherited “hatching” from dinosaurs

Perfectly preserved baby dinosaur fossil discovered in China.

In modern birds, such movements are associated with a behavior called folding, which is controlled by the central nervous system and is critical to successful hatching.

Pre-hatching behavior is not the only behavior modern birds inherited from their dinosaur ancestors. The same type of dinosaurs have also been known to sit on their eggs to hatch them in a similar way to birds, Zelenitsky said.

AmericanPost.News reports that the dinosaur fossil was found in China’s Jiangxi province and acquired in 2000 by Liang Liu, director of a Chinese stone company called Yingliang Group.

It ended up in storage, largely forgotten until about 10 years later, when museum staff sorted the boxes and unearthed the fossil during the construction of the Yingliang Stone Natural History Museum.

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