WASHINGTON: On Tuesday scientists announced the discovery of a well-preserved dinosaur fetus from at least 66 million years ago that was preparing to hatch its egg like a chicken.
The fossils were found in Ganzhou, southern China and belonged to the toothless theropod dinosaur, or oviraptorosaur, which researchers call “Baby Yingliang.”
“She is one of the finest dinosaur embryos ever discovered in history,” University of Birmingham researcher Fion Waisum Ma, who co-authored a paper in the journal Scientific, told AFP.
Ma and her colleagues found Baby Yingliang’s head lying beneath her body, feet on both sides and behind wrapping a shape that was invisible to dinosaurs, but resembling modern birds.
In birds, behavior is controlled by the central nervous system and is called “tucking.” Chicks prepare their hatchlings with their heads under their right wing to keep their head down while cracking the shell with their beak.
Embryos that fail to thrive have a higher risk of dying from failed fertilization.
“This suggests that such behavior on modern birds first appeared and originated with their dinosaur ancestors,” says Ma.
Another method of pulling may be something close to what is seen in modern crocodiles, instead taking the form of sitting head down on the chest until it hatches. Forget where they were kept – Oviraptorosaurs, meaning “egg-stealing lizards,” were the feathered dinosaurs that lived in what is now Asia and North America during the Late Cretaceous period.
They had a flexible beak and food, and varied in size from modern turkeys on the lower extremities to large Gigantoraptors, which were eight feet (26 feet) long.
Baby Yingliang measures approximately 27 inches (10.6 inches) in height from head to tail, and lies inside a 17-inch-long [17 cm] egg in the Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum.
Researchers believe that the creature is between 72 million and 66 million years old, and it was probably saved by a sudden drop of mud that covered the egg, protecting it from fishermen for a long time.
It could grow to six to ten feet [2-3 m] in height if it had lived to adulthood, and would probably have eaten plants.
This pattern was one of several egg yolks that were lost in storage for decades.
A team of researchers suspected that it may contain unborn dinosaurs, and they extracted part of Baby Yingliang’s egg shell to reveal a hidden embryo inside.
“This dinosaur fetus inside its egg is one of the finest fossils I have ever seen,” Professor Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, who is part of the research team, said in a statement.
“This prenatal dinosaur looks like a tiny bird wrapped around its egg, which is further proof that many modern bird species began to emerge from their dinosaur ancestors.”
The team hopes to study Prince Yingliang in more detail using advanced scanning techniques to mimic the structure of his full bones, including the bones of his skull, as part of his body is still covered with rock.