This oviraptorosaur fossil, discovered in Ganzhou, China, was named by researchers
It is one of the best-preserved dinosaur embryos ever to be found., says Fion Waisum Ma of the University of Birmingham and co-author of the study published in iScience.
Baby Yingliang was found with his back bent, his feet on either side of his head, with it tucked into his stomach. A position that had never before been seen in dinosaurs, but which is well known in birds.
When the chicks prepare to hatch, they stabilize their heads under a wing, while piercing their shells with their beaks. Embryos that fail to position themselves have a greater chance of dying from a failed hatch.
This indicates that such behavior in modern birds has its origin in their dinosaur ancestors., explains Fion Waisum Ma.
An alternative could have resembled what crocodiles do, which adopt a seated posture, with their heads only tilted on their stomachs.
The oviraptorosaurs, whose name means
egg thief lizard, were feathered dinosaurs living in Asia and North America during the Late Cretaceous Period.
They could have different beak shapes and diets, and ranged in size from monkeys to huge gigantoraptors measuring eight meters in length.
Preserved by a landslide
Baby Yingliang measures 27 centimeters from head to tail and rests in a 17 centimeter long egg at the Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum.
Scientists say it is between 72 and 66 million years old, and was probably so well preserved due to a landslide that buried it and protected it from scavengers. It would have grown to two or three meters long if it had reached adulthood, and would have fed on plants.
This specimen was one of a group of several egg fossils that were left behind and forgotten for years. The researchers suspected that they might contain dinosaurs and scratched part of the shell to find Baby Yingliang.
This dinosaur embryo in its egg is one of the most beautiful fossils I have ever seenUniversity of Edinburgh professor Steve Brusatte and research team member said in a statement.
looks exactly like a baby bird coiled in its egg, further evidence that many characteristics of birds today derive from their dinosaur ancestors, he added.
The researchers hope to be able to study the embryo with more precision using imaging techniques, in order to reveal its entire skeleton.