A well-preserved dinosaur egg from over 66million years ago recovered in 2000 was found to have an embryo inside of it.
"One of the most beautiful fossils I have ever seen," one researcher said of the embryo.
Where were the fossilized dinosaur eggs found?
Yingliang Group, a stone mining firm, discovered the preserved dinosaur egg near Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province, southern China, in 2000.
They were kept in storage because company personnel suspected they were dinosaur fossils.
In 2010, Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum employees discovered the fossils and noted bones within the egg while searching through the storage.
Scientists discovered an embryo in one of the eggs after examining the fossils, which they called "Baby Yingliang."
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How long was the embryo inside the fossil and what kind of dinosaur is it?
It is dated between 72 and 66 million years old.
The embryo was recognized as an oviraptorosaur, a group of feathered theropod dinosaurs with characteristic toothless, parrot-like beaks and occasionally complex crests, according to ScienceAlert.com.
Oviraptorosaurs, like all other non-avian dinosaurs, became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period, roughly 66 million years ago, when an asteroid collided with the Earth.
This is a long-awaited find that might not have surfaced if museum employees hadn't discovered the fossil after it had been resting in storage for approximately 10 years.
What are scientists saying about the fossilized dinosaur eggs?
The preserved embryo is a stunning find, with a position that matches contemporary bird embryos on the verge of hatching, according to ScienceAlert.com.
It raises the prospect that evolutionary relationships between present birds and prehistoric dinosaurs are significantly deeper than previously assumed.
"This little prenatal dinosaur looks just like a baby bird curled in its egg,” said paleontologist and author Steve Brusatte from the University of Edinburgh, “which is yet more evidence that many features characteristic of today's birds first evolved in their dinosaur ancestors."
Waisum Ma from the University of Birmingham said to peer-reviewed publication EurekAlert: "We were surprised to see this embryo beautifully preserved inside a dinosaur egg, lying in a bird-like posture. This posture had not been recognized in non-avian dinosaurs before."
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