Scientists have discovered an extremely well preserved dinosaur embryo, at least 66 million years old, which was about to hatch like a bird does.
This fossil, oiraptorosaurus, discovered in Ganzhou, China, was named by researchers Baby Yingliang.
“It’s one of the best dinosaur embryos ever found,” he told AFP. Fion Waisum Ma, from University of Birmingham, co-author of the study published in iScience.
“Baby Yingliang” was found with his back bent, with his legs on either side of his head, which was facing his stomach. A place never seen before in dinosaurs, but is well known to birds.
As the chicks prepare to hatch, they stabilize their head under a feather as they pierce the shell with their beak. Fetuses that fail to settle in this position are more likely to have a failed birth.
“This shows that such behavior in modern birds has its origins in dinosaur ancestors,” says Fion Waisum Ma.
An alternative could be what crocodiles do, which adopt a sitting posture, with the head tilted only towards the stomach.
The oiraptorosaurs, whose name means “egg-stealing lizard”, were winged dinosaurs that lived in Asia and North America during the Late Cretaceous. They could have different beak shapes and different diets, and their size can range from that of a monkey to that of a giant eight-meter-long predator.
The “Baby Yingliang” measures 27 cm from head to tail and rests on a 17 cm long egg at the Yingliang Stone Museum of Natural History.
Scientists estimate that it is between 72 and 66 million years old and that it probably survived so well as a result of a landslide that buried it and protected it. .
This specimen was part of a group of many fossilized eggs that had been ignored for years. Investigators suspected that it may have contained a dinosaur, scraped part of the shell and found the “Baby Yingliang”.
Edited by: Michaela Lambrinidou