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Fossils of 125-Million-Year-Old 'Eternal Sleeper' Dinosaurs Discovered by Researchers in China

Original artwork depicting the moment the asteroid struck in present-day Mexico. (Image: Chase Stone)

Original artwork depicting the moment the asteroid struck in present-day Mexico. (Image: Chase Stone)

Scientists said that the two intact fossils of the species suggest that the animals were trapped by a volcanic eruption while resting at the bottom of their burrows.

Archaeologists in China have found two preserved fossils of a new 125 million-year-old dinosaur species in the Lujiatun Beds, the oldest layers of the famous Yixian Formation in northeast China. These species were named as Changmiania liaoningensis. Changmian means "eternal sleep" in Chinese.

In the press release, scientists said that the two intact fossils of the species suggest that the animals were trapped by a volcanic eruption while resting at the bottom of their burrows.

They believed that the species are the most primitive ornithopod dinosaur till date. Ornithopods are a group of herbivorous dinosaurs that developed particularly in the Cretaceous period.

It includes the Bernissart Iguanodons, as well as the hadrosaurs or duck-billed dinosaurs. According to researchers, the fossil appears to be of a small, herbivorous, bipedal dinosaur, about 1.2 metres long that could run very fast.

According to Palaeontologist Pascal Godefroit of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, these animals were quickly covered by fine sediment while they were still alive or just after their death. He also said that certain characteristics of the skeleton suggest that Changmiania could dig burrows, much like rabbits do today.

His statement reads, “The neck and forearms are very short but robust, its shoulder blades are characteristic of burrowing vertebrates and the top of its snout is shaped like a shovel.”

The study was conducted by Godefroit and his Chinese and French colleagues. The details of the studies are published in the scientific journal PeerJ.

Researchers have found thousands of perfectly preserved vertebrate fossils from Lujiatun Beds. These findings include lizards, mammals and dinosaurs. The Lujiatun fossils are different from other horizons from the Jehol Biota. These are preserved in three dimensions, revealing unique behaviour information, such as parental care and sleeping posture of dinosaurs, and mammals eating dinosaur.


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