Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images
A 72 to 66 million-year-old embryo found inside a fossilized dinosaur egg opens new research on the link between the behavior of modern birds and dinosaurs, according to a new study.
The embryo, nicknamed “Baby yingliang“, Was discovered in the Upper Cretaceous rocks of Ganzhou, in southern China, and belongs to a toothless theropod dinosaur or oviraptorosaur.
Between the most complete dinosaur embryos ever founds, the fossil suggests that these dinosaurs developed postures similar to those of birds near hatching (the act of being born or sprouting a living being after breaking the envelope, such as an egg or cocoon).
The scientists found that lhe position of “Baby Yingliang” is unique among dinosaur embryos known: its head is located under the body, with the feet on each side and the back bent along the blunt end of the egg.
Previously unrecognized in dinosaurs, this posture is similar to that of modern bird embryos; that is why iScience magazine made a animated re-enactment of the “life” of the “baby dinosaur” inside its egg:
In modern birds, these postures are related to “folding”, a behavior controlled by the central nervous system and essential for successful hatching.
After studying the egg and embryo, the researchers believe that such pre-hatching behavior, previously considered unique to birds, may have originated among non-avian theropods.
Led by scientists from the University of Birmingham and China University of Geosciences (Beijing), the research team from institutions in China, the UK and Canada published their findings in iScience.
The embryo articulates in its life position without much interruption by fossilization. Estimated to measure 27 centimeters long from head to tail, the creature lies within an elongatoolitid egg 17 cm long.
Fion Waisum Ma, first co-author and PhD researcher at the University of Birmingham, said: “Dinosaur embryos are some of the rarest fossils and most of them are incomplete with dislocated bones.
“We are very excited about the discovery of ‘Baby Yingliang’, it is preserved in excellent condition and it helps us answer many questions about the growth and reproduction of dinosaurs with it,” he added.
The specimen is in the Yingliang Stone Natural History Museum.
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