This is the most well-preserved Dinosaur egg ever discovered

WION Web Team
Washington, United States Published: Dec 22, 2021, 09:02 AM(IST)

Baby Yingliang's head was beneath its body with the feet on either side and the back curled, a position which had never been seen before in dinosaurs, but is similar to modern birds. Photograph:( AFP )

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'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', says Professor Steve Brusatte, part of the research team

On Tuesday, scientists announced that they had discovered an extraordinarily preserved dinosaur embryo dating back to at least 66 million years ago. The embryo was prepared to hatch from an egg just like a chicken.

This toothless theropod dinosaur fossil was found in Ganzhou, southern China, and was dubbed "Baby Yingliang".

Fion Waisum Ma, a University of Birmingham researcher and co-author of the paper published in the journal iScience called the embryo one of the best ever found.

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Baby Yingliang's head was beneath its body with the feet on either side and the back curled, a position which had never been seen before in dinosaurs, but is similar to modern birds.

In birds, this behaviour is called "tucking." Chicks preparing to hatch tuck their heads under their wings to stabilize them while they crack the shell with their beaks. 

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The chances of an unsuccessful hatching increase for embryos that fail to tuck.

"This indicates that such behavior in modern birds first evolved and originated among their dinosaur ancestors," said Ma.

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The eggs thief lizard, or Oviraptorosaur, lived in what is now Asia and North America during the Late Cretaceous period. 

Variable beak shapes and diets were common to the species, and sizes ranged from modern turkeys at the lower end to eight-meter long Gigantoraptors.

From head to tail, baby Yingliang measures about 27 centimetres (10.6 inches) and resides in a 17-centimetre egg in the Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum. 

The egg, believed to be 72 to 66 million years old, was probably preserved by a sudden mudslide that buried it, preventing scavengers from having access to it.

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As an adult, it would have grown to be two to three meters long and probably fed on plants.

The specimen was among several fossilized egg specimens forgotten in storage for decades.

Scientists suspected the eggs might contain dinosaur embryos, so they scraped off a part of Baby Yingliang's eggshell in order to discover its embryo.

"This dinosaur embryo inside its egg is one of the most beautiful fossils I have ever seen," said Professor Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, part of the research team, in a statement.

"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."

Using advanced scanning techniques, the team hopes to image Baby Yingliang's full skeleton, including the skull bones, since part of the body is still covered by rock.

(With inputs from agencies)

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