Indiana University of Pennsylvania
The remains of a preserved dinosaur sitting on a nest of eggs with fossilised embryos was discovered by scientists in Ganzhou City in China, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) said in a news release.
A first-of-its-kind discovery, the skeletal remains of an oviraptorosaur fossil was unearthed from rocks that are believed to be 70 million years old.
The oviraptorosaur was a bird-like beast that roamed the earth more than 66 million years ago. They were part of a diverse group of bird-like dinosaurs that lived during the Cretaceous period.
The researchers said in a report that the partially preserved feathered dinosaur had been incubating a nest of 24 eggs. As many as seven of them contained skeletal remains of developing babies.
The embryos in eggs were reportedly visible with the ‘forearms, pelvis, hind limbs and partial tail of the adult’, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH).
“The late stage of development of the embryos and the close proximity of the adult to the eggs strongly suggests that the latter died in the act of incubating its nest, like its modern bird cousins, rather than laying its eggs or simply guarding its nest crocodile-style, as has sometimes been proposed for the few other oviraptorid skeletons that have been found atop nests,” CMNH said.
The researchers said that the discovery is a sign that oviraptorosaurs sat on nests like other birds or their avian cousins that are found all over our planet.
This is different from other creatures as alligators and other reptiles are known to guard their eggs.
“Dinosaurs preserved on their nests are rare, and so are fossil embryos. This is the first time a non-avian dinosaur has been found sitting on a nest of eggs that preserve embryos, in a single spectacular specimen,” said Shundong Bi in a press release.
Shundong Bi is a CMNH researcher and professor at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He and Xing Xu, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, were the primary authors of the paper that announced the discovery in Science Bulletin in January.
The researchers ruled out the possibility that the dinosaur died while laying the eggs. They arrived at this conclusion after finding the embryos were in a late and developmental stage.