A 66-million-year-old fully preserved dinosaur embryo was found nestled within a fossilized egg, unveiling captivating insights into our prehistoric past.
Dinosaurs, similar to many modern reptiles and birds, produce their offspring by laying eggs. For many years, humanity has been fascinated with these long-extinct creatures but has only been able to capture the process in fossil records. Fossils themselves are rare. Fossils of dinosaurs nesting above eggs or complete egg embryos are much more hard to find. Fortunately, a fully articulated dinosaur embryo has been discovered inside a fossilized egg located in a Chinese museum, as per an academic research paper published on iScience.
Welcome 'Baby Yingliang'! An oviraptorosaur embryo lying inside an egg. This little dinosaur has a bird-like prehatching posture! In the team with @LidaXing1982, @SteveBrusatte and colleagues. Open access in @iScience_CP, https://t.co/6fM0UAuLui pic.twitter.com/GbS9UiO1iN— Fion Ma (@FionMaWS) December 21, 2021
The egg was originally acquired by the Yinglian Stone Natural History Museum in 2000. It was subsequently identified for what it truly represented through later examinations. Concentrated efforts revealed the presence of a completely preserved dinosaur embryo within the egg. The preserved remains were found to be approximately 66 to 72 million years old. Reflecting on the discovery, Fion Waisum Ma, one of the paper's authors, said in a statement, "Dinosaur embryos are some of the rarest fossils and most of them are incomplete with the bones dislocated. We are very excited about the discovery of 'Baby Yingliang' - it is preserved in great condition and helps us answer a lot of questions about dinosaur growth and reproduction with it."
This just out, in which we describe some new hadrosauroid embryos from China, and discuss implications for character polarization in egg size and life history in hadrosaurids. Great collab with @LidaXing1982 and others.https://t.co/zXqgudOZpC pic.twitter.com/uHWhqNvBEX— Jordan Mallon (@Jordan_Mallon) May 10, 2022
Researchers also noted that the prenatal dinosaur shared a similar posture to a baby bird curled in its egg, indicating an evolutionary link between today's bird and prehistoric dinosaurs. The position of the dinosaur showed that it was about to hatch. This particular specimen belongs to the oviraptorosaur family, distinguished by its feathers, deep toothless skull and a length of 10.6 inches. Interestingly, the tucking posture that was observed in the embryo is a crucial factor of survival for modern-day birds.
If the embryos cannot attain the posture, there is a higher chance of death upon hatching. Through a comparative analysis involving 'Baby Yingliang,' the research team suggested that the behavior of tucking, initially believed to be exclusive to birds, actually originated in theropod dinosaurs numerous millions of years ago. The discovery of more embryo fossils would allow for the theory to be accepted. According to the American Museum of Natural History, dinosaurs were a group of reptiles that inhabited the Earth 245 million years ago.
The term "dinosaur" was coined by English naturalist Sir Richard Owen and came from the Greek word "deinos", which meant "fearfully great," and "sauros", which meant "lizard." Fossilized dinosaur remains have been discovered on every single continent around the globe. The species went extinct roughly 66 million years ago. Modern birds belong to the dinosaur family, as they share a common lineage with non-avian dinosaurs. Our primary way of learning more about these fascinating beings is the fossilized remains they left behind.
Paleontologists undertake the meticulous task of unearthing their remains and making discoveries. It is also important to know that our current knowledge about dinosaurs is entirely based on fossils. For generations, individuals worldwide have come across remarkable fossilized bones and imprints. These initial discoveries sparked myths and folklore, as people speculated that these bones were remnants of giants or colossal creatures.