A Perfectly Preserved Dinosaur Egg Highlights Link to Modern Birds

The fossil study was published in the journal iScience

Photo of the oviraptorosaur embryo 'Baby Yingliang'.
Courtesy Xing et al., 2021

A 66-million-year-old fossil of a complete baby dinosaur in its egg, apparently just a few days before it would hatch, shows the remarkable similarities between theropod dinosaurs and the birds they would evolve into, according to a study published Tuesday.

The fossilized bones of the embryo, named “Baby Yingliang” after the museum in southern China where it was discovered, can be seen curled up inside its 6-inch elongated eggshell and looking almost exactly like a modern bird at that stage, although it has tiny arms and claws rather than wings.

Fion Waisum Ma, a paleontologist at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, said the head is particularly striking in its similarity to the head of a newly hatched bird — a resemblance heightened by a beak that was a feature of this dinosaur species, called an oviraptorosaur. Ma is one of the lead authors of the fossil study published in the journal iScience. Scientists from China, Canada and elsewhere in the U.K. were also involved. 

For more on this story, go to NBC News.

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