'Exquisitely preserved' dinosaur embryo discovered
By T.K. Randall
December 22, 2021 · 6 comments
An artist's impression of the embryo. Image Credit: Julius Csotonyi
An unhatched dinosaur resembling a 17-day-old chicken embryo has been discovered by palaeontologists.
The embryo, which looks like something out of a scene from 'Jurassic Park', measures around 27cm long and belongs to a species of bird-like dinosaur known as an oviraptorosaur.
It is not only one of the best preserved dinosaur embryos ever found, but also one of the best pieces of evidence to further the link between dinosaurs and modern day birds.
Dating back between 66 and 72 million years, the egg was found in Ganzhou in eastern China.
What's particularly interesting is the way in which the embryo is positioned within the egg, exhibiting a pose never seen in non-avian dinosaurs but which closely resembles that of modern birds.
Oviraptorosaurs (meaning 'egg thief lizards') were a group of theropod dinosaurs that roamed Asia and North America during the Late Cretaceous period.
While some were as small as a turkey, others were huge - measuring up to 7 meters in length.
They were particularly close, in evolutionary terms, to modern birds and have taught scientists much about the evolution of the dinosaurs during this period and the emergence of the birds we see today.
"This dinosaur embryo inside its egg is one of the most beautiful fossils I have ever seen," said Prof Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh.
"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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