Palaeontologists spend most of their lives on the field, hoping to find a semi-complete fossil. Most commonly, they have to make peace with broken bones or parts of a skeleton. Two Chinese farmers recently discovered fully preserved, complete coffins of two dinosaurs, much to the joy of paleo-scientists.
According to Livescience, the most likely explanation behind this discovery is that approximately 125 million years ago, these ancient reptiles must have fallen asleep in the underground burrow. A volcanic eruption might have occurred as these two slept, possibly burying them alive.
The fossils belong to undiscovered species, so the scientists had an opportunity to name them. They have been christened as Changmiania liaoningensis. The name means ‘eternal sleeper from Liaoning’ in Chinese. Clearly, a pun with reference to the state in which these fossils formed. They were probably lying down with closed eyes, looking as if they were asleep, and the undisturbed, pristine skeleton does look like a sound sleeper.
Chinese farmers discovered these specimens in Liaoning province of Northern China. The area is a plain covered in ancient volcanic debris and also a well-known archaeological site. Neolithic era excavations have already produced samples of ancient religious structures and practices. The region has also been compared to a ‘cretaceous version of Pompeii’ on account of all the fossils found in the region, preserved in volcanic debris.
The two ‘eternal sleepers’ are currently placed in the Paleontological Museum at Liaoning. A team of international scientists from China, Argentina, and
Belgium have been formed to the study the newly found species.
The prima facie deductions suggest that C. liaoningensis is an early ornithopod. This group includes bipedal dinosaurs i.e. those who walk on two legs like Iguanodon and Hadrosaurs. Some of the duck-billed dinosaurs belong to this family. The primary observations also revealed powerful hindlegs and stiff tail which could be an indicator of a swift runner, according to the researchers.
Another feature hypothesised is that C. liaoningensis could have been an expert burrower. Though not impossible, it was an extremely rare characteristic among dinosaurs. Certain characteristics of the skeleton suggest that Changmiania could dig burrows, much like rabbits do today, study senior
researcher Pascal Godefroit, a palaeontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, said in a statement.