Dinosaur embryo found preserved inside 60 million-year-old egg

Baby dinosaur embryo is shown inside its egg
Elsevier | iScience.com

Scientists recently made a stunning discovery inside of a fossilized dinosaur egg more than 20 years after it was found in China. Hidden inside this unbroken egg was a perfectly preserved embryo of a dinosaur that is likely an ancient ancestor of modern birds.

The unhatched dinosaur has been dubbed Baby Yingliang by the scientists who uncovered what was inside the egg. The prehistoric embryo remained a hidden mystery until a construction project, according to one of the scientists on the research team.

“During the construction of Yingliang Stone Natural History Museum in [the] 2010s, museum staff sorted through the storage and discovered the specimens,” said professor Lida Xing, from the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, in a press release shared by England’s University of Birmingham. “These specimens were identified as dinosaur egg fossils. Fossil preparation was conducted and eventually unveiled the embryo hidden inside the egg. This is how Baby Yingliang was brought to light.”

University of Birmingham

Scientists realized the fossilized dinosaur embryo was inside the egg after a small crack in the shell revealed its bones, according to National Geographic. A photo of the Baby Yingliang fossil and an artist’s drawing of the hatching process was released by iScience.com and shared via ElseveirHealth.com.

Elsevier

Based on the findings by the research team, Baby Yingliang is believed to be an Oviraptorid theropod and was found in the “pre-tucking position” inside the egg, In modern terms, pre-tucking is the position an unhatched chicken gets into shortly before cracking through its shell.

Despite the specimen being more than 60 million years old, experts say its condition is incredible.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes because it is so perfectly preserved,” study author Darla Zelenitsky, a paleontologist at the University of Calgary who specializes in dinosaur eggs, told National Geographic.

News of Baby Yingliang quickly spread across the internet, including on Xing’s Facebook page, which featured an artist’s illustration of what the embryo may have looked like millions of years ago.

The researchers plan to continue studies on Baby Yingliang in the hopes of discovering more information about the specimen. CBS News reported scientists hope to do internal scans of its anatomy if they can carefully access it over the layers of rock still covering parts of its body.

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Marie is a freelance writer and content creator with more than 20 years of experience in journalism. She lives in southwest Ohio with her husband and is almost a full-fledged empty nest mom of two daughters. She loves music, reading, word games, and Walt Disney World. Visit Scripps News to see more of Marie's work.

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