The fossil, 70 million years old, preserves the embryonic skeleton from an oviraptorid dinosaur. It was named Baby Yingliang in honor of the Chinese museum that houses it. Darla Zelenitsky is an associate professor at the University of Calgary's geoscience department. Baby dinosaur bones are fragile and small. They are very rarely preserved as fossils. This makes this an extremely lucky find.
It is an incredible specimen. "It is an amazing specimen...
She stated in an email that "up until now, little was known about what happened inside a dinosaur egg before hatching" and added that there were very few embryonic skulls preserved in a life-like pose.
A perfectly preserved baby dinosaur was found curled up in its egg.
The egg measures 17 cm (7 inches) in length, and the dinosaur is estimated to measure 27 cm (11 inches) from head to tail. Researchers believe that if the dinosaur had lived as an adult, it would have measured around two to three meters in length.
Researchers from Canada, China and the UK studied Baby Yingliang's position and those of other oviraptorid embryos. The researchers concluded that dinosaurs moved and changed positions before hatching in a manner similar to baby birds.
Modern birds associate these movements with a behavior called "tucking", which is controlled centrally by the nervous system. It is crucial for hatching success.
Waisum Ma (UK researcher, University of Birmingham) stated that the most well-known non-avian dinosaur embryos were incomplete and had their skeletons disarticulated (bones split at the joints).
"We were shocked to find this embryo preserved in a dinosaur egg and lying in a birdlike position. This position was not recognized by non-avian dinosaurs.
Theropods are a group consisting of two-legged dinosaurs called theropods. These members include the tall Tyrannosaurus Rex and smaller velociraptors.
Modern birds inherit a lot more than the pre-hatching behavior from their dinosaur ancestors. Zelenitsky stated that the same type of dinosaurs may have incubated eggs in a similar way to birds by sitting on top of them.
Liang Liu, a director at a Chinese stone company called Yingliang Group, purchased the fossil in 2000. It was discovered in China's Jiangxi Province. It was stored and forgotten about until 10 years later when museum staff sorted through boxes to find the fossil. The company funds the museum.