Preserved dinosaur embryo sheds light on connection to modern birds

Scientists believe the embryo was fossilized in its egg after being buried by a mudslide that protected it from exposure to the elements and scavengers.

Dinosaurs (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists have discovered a perfectly-preserved dinosaur embryo that appears to have been just about to hatch from its egg. They believe the egg was fossilized after being buried by a mudslide or similar phenomenon that protected it from exposure to the elements as well as scavengers, and that it is likely an oviraptorid theropod dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period, which lasted from about 145 to 66 million years ago. The findings were published in the peer-reviewed Cell Press Journals.

The embryo was discovered in the city of Ganzhou in southern China.

Researchers credit the embryo, which they’ve dubbed "Baby Yingliang" after the museum that houses it, as being a strong link between what we know about dinosaurs and how they are related to modern birds.

Their findings highlight that "[the embryo’s] posture is similar to that of a late-stage modern bird embryo," and that it is possible that "Avian tucking behavior possibly originated among non-avian theropods." Prior to this discovery, this posture was "unrecognized in non-avian dinosaurs."

Paleontologist Steve Brusatte welcomed Baby Yingliang in a tweet where he also shared an image of the incredibly rare find.

"Welcome Baby Yingliang, a gorgeous fossil dinosaur embryo preserved inside its egg!" the tweet read.