1:31 PM PST, December 21, 2021
The well-preserved embryo was found Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province, and was acquired by researchers at Yingliang Group, a company that mines stones, in 2000, CBS News reported.
They suspected it contained egg fossils, but put it in storage for 10 years, according to a news release from the company. When construction began on Yingliang Stone Natural History Museum, boxes of unearthed fossils were sorted through, including the egg, CBS News reported.
“Museum staff identified them as dinosaur eggs and saw some bones on the broken cross section of one of the eggs,” Lida Xing of China University of Geosciences, Beijing, said in a news release.
The embryo is that of the bird-like oviraptorosaurs, part of the theropod group, CBS News reported. Researchers nicknamed it “Baby Yingliang.”
Although theropod translates to “beast foot,” the feet bear more of a resemblance to those of birds, which are descendants of a lineage of small theropods, CBS News reported.
The 66-million-year-old fossil was apparently days away from hatching, NBC News reported.
Images of the fossil, obtained by NBC News, detail the embryo curled-up inside its 6-inch elongated shell. While it looks similar like a modern bird at that stage, it has arms instead of wings.
“It is an amazing specimen … I have been working on dinosaur eggs for 25 years and have yet to see anything like it,” Darla Zelenitsky, an associate professor in the department of geoscience at the University of Calgary in Canada, and a coauthor of the research that published in the journal iScience told CNN.
“Up until now, little has been known of what was going on inside a dinosaur’s egg prior to hatching, as there are so few embryonic skeletons, particularly those that are complete and preserved in a life pose,” she added in an email to CNN.