A Fossil Oviraptor Embryo

In Late December 2021, an incredible discovery was [announced]. A new fossil embryo of an oviraptor dinosaur was found in China. We all know how rare fossils are in general, but articulated fossils (ones where the bones are still in life position), and articulated fossils INSIDE of eggs are even more rare.

The egg itself was actually discovered 20 years ago, but it wasn’t investigated until recently. Inside, paleontologists found a baby oviraptor. The egg is ~16cm long and the baby is ~23.5 cm long, so you can imagine that the little embryo is curled into a ball.

An image from the paper showing the fossil and interpretation.

The exact position of the embryo is really interesting. It has its head tucked between its legs with its back up against the bottom of the shell. This position is very similar to what embryonic chickens do when they are getting ready to hatch. Having their head tucked helps protect them when they are pushing the shell apart.

There are a few other dinosaur eggs that contain embryos, and with each one, we are getting a clearer picture of how baby dinosaurs grew in their eggs. It should not be a surprise that they seem very bird-like in their development, and not as similar to modern crocs.

This embryo sheds new light on the link between modern bird behavior and dinosaurs.

An artist rendition of the baby oviraptor. By Lida Xing.