Meet 'Baby Yingliang,' a well-preserved dinosaur embryo found in a fossilised egg
Oviraptorosaurs lived in Asia and North America during the Cretaceous period (145 to 66 million years ago)
Researchers uncovered a 72- to 66-million-year-old embryo inside a fossilised dinosaur egg in the rocks of Ganzhou in southern China. The embryo, dubbed 'Baby Yingliang,' belongs to the oviraptorosaur family of toothless theropod dinosaurs. Oviraptorosaurs lived in Asia and North America during the Cretaceous epoch (145 to 66 million years ago).
The embryo's position was the most intriguing discovery. According to the team, "its head lies below the body, with the feet on either side and the back curled along the blunt end of the egg."
This is a comparable stance to that of modern-day avian embryos. Professor Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, one of the authors, said in a press release: "This dinosaur embryo inside its egg is one of the most beautiful fossils I have ever seen. 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."
Their research was published in the journal iScience. The embryo was discovered within a 17-cm-long egg, and the creature's length from head to tail is predicted to be 27 cm. The specimen is currently on display at the Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum in China.
In a statement, Fion Waisum Ma, co-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 with it…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."