A late-stage dinosaur embryo was discovered by researchers in China, exquisitely preserved inside of its egg for eons.
The tiny bird-like dinosaur — which somewhat resembled an ostrich — was in position for hatching when it died inside the egg. It remained there for nearly 70 million years.
Paleontologist and co-researcher of the study Darla Zelenitsy was astounded by its immaculately preserved condition. “This skeleton is not only complete from the tip of the snout to the end of its tail; it is curled in a life pose within its egg as if the animal died just yesterday,” she told Live Science.
The pose is similar to the “tucking behavior” that modern-day birds exhibit right before hatching. This positioning had never been recorded in dinosaurs until this recent find.
“The discovery of this embryo hints that some pre-hatching behaviors (e.g. tucking), which were previously considered unique to birds, may be rooted more deeply in dinosaurs many tens or hundreds of millions of years ago,” said paleobiology researcher and co-researcher Fion Waisum Ma in a comment.
The dinosaur embryo — now named Baby Yingliang — was discovered in Ganzhou, China nearly twenty years ago. However, no analysis of the egg was completed until 2015. Chinese stone company Yingliang Group had placed the fossil in storage, and submitted it for further analysis after rediscovering it when beginning construction on a new natural history museum.
The dinosaur was an oviraptorid, which is a bird-like toothless, feathered dinosaur that walked on two feet. It was scrunched into an egg only 6.7 inches in length, but measured 11 inches long from when stretched from snout tip to tail.
Learn more by reading the full study here on iScience.