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A perfectly preserved dinosaur embryo has been discovered – perfectly preserved inside a fossilised egg that dates back around 66 million years.
The fossil was found in Ganzhou, China, is is believed to have belonged to a toothless theropod, also known as an oviraptorosaur.
It has been nicknamed “Baby Yingliang” and shows a baby dinosaur in the final stages of attempting to hatch from an egg.
University of Birmingham researcher Fion Waisum Ma told AFP that it is one of the “best dinosaur embryos ever found in history”.
She 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 a 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 pre-hatching behaviours.”
From the fossil found, it is thought that it would have been around 10.6 inches when born, from head to tail, with the stage it was found in to be similar to that of a late-stage modern bird embryo.
The actual history of the fossil is not as clear, as it was purchased by a Mr Liang Liu around the year 2000.
This was then found in storage during the construction of the Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum around 10 years ago.
It was one of many fossilised eggs found in the storage unit, and will now be studied in greater detail using new scanning techniques to create images of the full skeleton, as part of it is still encased in rock.
Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh wrote, in iScience: “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.”
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