Scientists discovered perfectly preserved dinosaur embryo inside fossilized egg

Scientists made a landmark discovery when they found a dinosaur embryo, perfectly preserved, in a museum cupboard in China where it sat unnoticed for a decade. The embryo, a 72-million-year-old oviraptorosaur from the Cretaceous period, was initially unearthed in 2000 and later stored at the Yingliang Stone Natural History Museum.

Named ‘Baby Yingliang’, this embryo measures just 27cm long but has provided invaluable insights into the connection between dinosaurs and modern birds due to its unique ‘tucking’ position—similar to that of a late-stage bird embryo. “This little prenatal dinosaur looks just like a baby bird curled in its egg,” said Professor Steve Brusatte, reflecting on the embryo’s significance. Fion Waisum Ma, a PhD researcher, noted the similarities between the poses of ‘Baby Yingliang’ and a chicken embryo, suggesting comparable prehatching behaviors.

The 2021 study by the University of Birmingham and China University of Geosciences detailed these findings, with scientists concluding that the posture was “previously unrecognized in a non-avian dinosaur, but reminiscent of a late-stage modern bird embryo,” underscoring the evolutionary links between the species.