Scientists in China have discovered a 70-million-year-old fossil of a dinosaur preserved while sitting on a nest of eggs with fossilised embryos.
According to CNN, the oviraptorosaur fossil is the first discovery of its kind and was unearthed at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) in Guangzhou City.
“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, a CMNH researcher and professor at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania
The fossil of what is believed to be an adult oviraptorid can be seen hunched over 24 eggs or more, at least seven of which preserved the bones of the partial embryos found inside.
“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,” said CMNH in a statement. This suggests that dinosaurs were nurturing to their offspring.
The fossil also gave researchers insight into the diet of oviraptorosaurs. Palaeontologists were able to infer that these dinosaurs likely swallowed stones to help with digestion, as small ‘stomach stones’ were found in the abdominal region.
“It’s extraordinary to think how much biological information is captured in just this single fossil,” said Xing Xu, a professor at Chinese Academy of Sciences and co-author of the paper announcing the discovery. “We’re going to be learning from this specimen for many years to come.”—Agencies