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11th Nov 2023

Scientists discover perfectly preserved dinosaur embryo inside fossilised egg

Charlie Herbert


The dinosaur fossil has been described as ‘exceedingly rare’

A incredibly well-preserved fossilised dinosaur embryo which was still inside its egg has given palaeontologists new insights into the evolutionary links between modern birds and dinosaurs.

The 72 to 66-million-year-old oviraptorosaur embryo was found in Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province, in southern China, and has been named “Baby Yingliang”, after the name of the Chinese company which bought the egg around 20 years ago.

Analysis of the fossil showed the embryo’s head lying below its body, with its feet on either side and its back curled along the blunt end of the egg, behaviour that had previously been thought to be unique to birds.

Led by scientists from the University of Birmingham and China University of Geosciences (Beijing), the research team from institutions in China, UK and Canada today published its findings in iScience.

The research described these sort of fossils as “remarkably rare” adding that this fossil is “exceptionally preserved.”

Fion Waisum Ma, joint first author and PhD researcher at the University of Birmingham, said: “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.

“It is interesting to see this dinosaur embryo and a chicken embryo pose in a similar way inside the egg, which possibly indicates similar prehatching behaviours.”

Professor Steve Brusatte from the University of Edinburgh, who was part of the research team, described the fossilised embryo as “one of the most beautiful” he had ever seen.

He added: “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.”

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