In what is seen as a one of a kind discovery in paleontology, scientists have found the fossil of an oviraptorosaur, a type of bird-like theropod dinosaur sitting atop a nest of eggs with fossilised babies inside. The oviraptorosaurs lived during the Cretaceous Period, the third and final time period of the Mesozoic era, which was between 145.5 and 65.5 million years ago. The fossil was discovered from upper layers of the Cretaceous-aged rocks and are reportedly 70 million years old. The discovery was made in Ganzhou City in southern China’s Jiangxi Province, a report said.
Dr Shundong Bi, a member of the research team reportedly said that such discoveries are rare and such well preserved fossil embryos are too. Calling it a spectacular specimen, Dr Shundong says that this is the first time a non-avian(not related to birds) dinosaur has been found sitting in such a posture.
The discovered fossil contains an incomplete skeleton of probably an adult oviraptorid sitting in a hatching position akin to a bird on a clutch of 24 eggs, the scientists said. Out of them, 7 of the eggs were found to have bones or some amount of skeletal contains of unhatched oviraptorosaur embryos inside them. Scientists feel that the discovery suggests that the dinosaur probably died while it was in the middle of incubating its eggs and thus displayed particular extremely caring behaviour towards its unhatched babies.
The scientists have also suggested that the dinosaur’s behaviour makes it similar to birds when it comes to laying eggs and hatching the little ones. Unlike crocodiles who lay eggs and then just guards them from nearby, the oviraptorosaur in this case has been seen to physically protect them like birds do. Although there have been a few other oviraptorid skeletons found atop nests, but none so far have been found with embryos inside them.
The team of researchers had also conducted oxygen isotope analyses that show the eggs were incubated at high temperatures similar to that of birds. However, another interesting findings the team found that some of the embryos had matured earlier than others. This explains that within the same clutch of eggs, babies can hatch at different times as well.