SCIENCE: A baby dinosaur discovered perfectly preserved in its egg.

The 70-mil­lion-year-old fos­sil pre­serves the embry­on­ic skele­ton of an ovi­rap­torid dinosaur, which has been nick­named Baby Yingliang after the name of the Chi­nese muse­um that hous­es the fos­sil. Baby dinosaur bones are small and frag­ile and are only very rarely pre­served as fos­sils, which makes them a very lucky find, said Dar­la Zelen­it­sky, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Geo­sciences at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­gary in Canada.

“It’s an amaz­ing spec­i­men … I’ve been work­ing on dinosaur eggs for 25 years and haven’t seen any­thing like it yet,” said Zelen­it­sky, co-author of the research pub­lished in the jour­nal iScience on Tuesday.

“Until now, lit­tle was known about what went on inside a dinosaur egg before it hatched, as there are so few embry­on­ic skele­tons, espe­cial­ly those that are com­plete and pre­served in a pose of life, ”she said in an email.

The egg is approx­i­mate­ly 17 cen­time­ters (7 inch­es) long and the dinosaur has been esti­mat­ed to be 27 cen­time­ters (11 inch­es) long from head to tail. Researchers believe that in adult­hood, if he had lived, he would have been about two to three meters long.

Researchers from Chi­na, the UK and Cana­da stud­ied the posi­tions of Baby Yingliang and oth­er pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cov­ered ovi­rap­torid embryos. They con­clud­ed that dinosaurs move and change pos­es before hatch­ing in a man­ner sim­i­lar to baby birds.

In mod­ern birds, such move­ments are asso­ci­at­ed with a behav­ior called fold­ing, which is con­trolled by the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem and is essen­tial for suc­cess­ful hatching.

“Most known non-avian dinosaur embryos are incom­plete with dis­ar­tic­u­lat­ed skele­tons (bones sep­a­rat­ed at the joints),” said Waisum Ma, lead author of the study and researcher at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Birm­ing­ham, UK. , in a press release.

“We were sur­prised to see this beau­ti­ful­ly pre­served embryo inside a dinosaur egg, lying in a bird-like pos­ture. This pos­ture had not been rec­og­nized before in non-avian dinosaurs.”

All birds have direct­ly evolved from a group of two-legged dinosaurs called theropods, whose mem­bers include the tow­er­ing Tyran­nosaurus rex and the small­er velociraptors.

Pre-hatch behav­ior isn’t the only behav­ior mod­ern birds have inher­it­ed from their dinosaur ances­tors. The same type of dinosaurs are also known to sit on their eggs to incu­bate them in a man­ner sim­i­lar to birds, Zelen­it­sky said.

The fos­sil was found in Chi­na’s Jiangxi Province and acquired in 2000 by Liang Liu, direc­tor of a Chi­nese stone com­pa­ny called Yingliang Group. It end­ed up in stor­age, large­ly for­got­ten until about 10 years lat­er, when muse­um staff sort­ed the box­es and dug up the fos­sil dur­ing the con­struc­tion of the Yingliang Stone Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Muse­um. The muse­um is sub­si­dized by the company.

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