Science Newsroom, Dec 21 (EFE). A team of researchers has been able to describe a fetus between 72 and 66 million years old ‘fantastically preserved’ inside a fossilized dinosaur egg, shedding new light on the relationship between the behavior of modern birds and these extinct animals.
The fetus, nicknamed “Baby Yingliang”, was discovered in Ganzhou, southern China, and belonged to the toothless theropod or ovirraptorosaurus; The fossil indicates that these dinosaurs developed poses similar to those of near-hatching birds.
Scientists have discovered that the position of Baby Yingliang, one of the most complete dinosaur embryos ever, is unique: its head sits under the body, its feet are on either side, and its back is coiled along the sharp end of the egg.
This position, which until now was not known in dinosaurs, is similar to that of modern bird embryos, as stated in a statement issued by the University of Birmingham (UK).
In birds, these attitudes are linked to central nervous system-controlled behavior and are essential for successful hatching.
After studying the egg and embryo, researchers believe that this pre-hatching behavior, hitherto considered unique to birds, may have originated among non-avian theropods.
Led by experts from the University of Birmingham and the Chinese University of Geosciences (Beijing), the team, also made up of scientists from Canada, is publishing the details in the journal iScience.
The embryo is expressed without significant changes due to ossification: with an estimated length of 27 cm from head to tail, the creature was found inside an egg 17 cm long.
According to the magazine, the sample was obtained in 2000 by Liang Liu, director of a company called Yingliang Group, who suspected it might contain egg fossils.
But it ended up in storage, and was largely forgotten until about ten years later, when workers, during the construction of the Yingliang Stone Museum of Natural History, sorted out the boxes and discovered the fossils; Now it is your place.
“We are very excited to discover Baby Yingliang, which has been preserved in great condition and helps us answer many questions about the growth and reproduction of dinosaurs,” confirms Fion Waisum Ma.
“It is interesting to see that this dinosaur embryo and the chicken embryo formed similarly inside the egg, which may indicate similar behaviors before hatching.”
Baby Yingliang has been identified as an Oviraptorosaur based on its deep, toothless skull. This is a group of feathered theropod dinosaurs, closely related to modern birds, known from the Cretaceous period of Asia and North America.
Birds have been known to develop a series of bending poses, bending their bodies and placing their heads under the wing shortly before hatching. Fetuses that do not reach these positions are more likely to die because they were not born.
By comparing Baby Yingliang to other theropods, dinosaurs and long-necked sauropods, the team suggested that folding behavior, once considered unique to birds, first evolved in theropod dinosaurs tens or hundreds of millions of years ago.
The researchers summed up the additional discoveries of embryo fossils that are invaluable in further testing this hypothesis.
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