Paleontologists from Yunnan University have found a unique dinosaur specimen in southern China: the remains of a specimen of an ovirraptorsaurus sitting in a nest of eggs with fossilized young .
Specifically, it was recovered from rocks from the Upper Cretaceous, about 70 million years old, in the city of Ganzhou, in the province of Jiangxi.
The ovirraptorsaurus is part of a group of bird-like theropod dinosaurs that thrived during the Cretaceous Period, the third and last period of the Mesozoic Era, which spanned from 145 to 66 million years ago.
Specifically, the remains found belong to a large ovirraptor, probably an adult, crouched in a bird’s incubation posture on a clutch of at least 24 eggs. At least seven of these eggs have bones or partial skeletons of unhatched oviraptorid embryos inside . The team also carried out oxygen isotope analyzes indicating that the eggs were incubated at high temperatures similar to those of birds.
Although some adult oviraptorids have been found in nests in their eggs before, embryos have never been found inside those eggs, as explained by Shundong Bi , from Yunnan University and first author of the study that describes the finding :
Dinosaurs preserved in their nests are rare, as are fossil embryos. This is the first time that a non-avian dinosaur has been found, sitting in a nest of embryo-preserving eggs, in a single spectacular specimen.