A dinosaur preserved sitting on a nest of eggs with fossilized babies inside has been discovered by a team of scientists. Dr. Shundong Bi, professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and research associate at Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH), and collaborators have written a scientific paper describing the discovery and it was published in the journal Science Bulletin on December 2020.
“Here we report the first non-avialan dinosaur fossil known to preserve an adult skeleton atop an egg clutch that contains embryonic remains,” Shundong Bi and his team of multinational researchers wrote on the Abstract of their paper called An oviraptorid preserved atop an embryo-bearing egg clutch sheds light on the reproductive biology of non-avialan theropod dinosaurs.
In January 2021, the IUP and the CMNH, through a separate news article published on their websites, revealed that the fossil of the dinosaur is that of an oviraptorosaur which they described as “a group of bird-like theropod dinosaurs that thrived during the Cretaceous Period, the third and final time period of the Mesozoic Era, also known as the Age of Dinosaurs.
The fossil, an incomplete skeleton of a large oviraptorid with at least 24 eggs, was recovered from uppermost Cretaceous-aged rocks in Ganzhou City in southern China’s Jiangxi Province.
“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.”
– Shundong Bi, Paleontologist at Indiana University of Pennsylvania
According to Dr. Matthew Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, this kind of discovery is very rare. “This kind of discovery—in essence, fossilized behavior—is the rarest of the rare in dinosaurs,” Lamanna said.
“Though a few adult oviraptorids have been found on nests of their eggs before, no embryos have ever been found inside those eggs. In the new specimen, the babies were almost ready to hatch, which tells us beyond a doubt that this oviraptorid had tended its nest for quite a long time,” Lamanna added.