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Eggs From This Flying, Dinosaur-Era Reptile Recovered in China

03 December 2017, 05:38 | Justin Tyler

Eggs From This Flying, Dinosaur-Era Reptile Recovered in China

Eggs From This Flying, Dinosaur-Era Reptile Recovered in China

Adult and juvenile fossils from males and females were also discovered at the site in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The pterosaurs were an order of flying reptiles that went extinct some 66 million years ago.

"From our discovery, we conclude that the newborns of pterosaurs, at least Hamipterus, were likely to walk on the ground, but were not able to fly in the sky because the femur in the embryo is well developed, but the forelimbs are not well developed", Wang said. The new haul, discovered by Chinese Academy of Sciences paleontologist Xiaolin Wang, includes at least 215-and perhaps as many as 300- stunningly preserved pterosaur eggs.

Most eggs were collected from white to gray, middle- to fine-grained sandstones that were deposited in a fluvio-lacustrine environment where mudstone pellets and localized lenses of mudstone are present, suggesting that events of high energy such as storms have passed over a nesting site, which might have caused the eggs to be moved inside the lake where they floated for a short period of time, becoming concentrated and eventually buried along with disarticulated skeletons. For most of history, we didn't know much about their eggs, or the babies inside them, because paleontologists had only found eight eggs that weren't completely flattened.

A discovery in northwestern China of hundreds of fossilized pterosaur eggs is providing fresh understanding of the flying reptiles that lived alongside the dinosaurs, including evidence that their babies were born flightless and needed parental care.

Pterosaurs laid soft eggs like snakes or lizards, not brittle ones like birds.

But scientists did find partial wing and skull bones, along with one complete lower jaw, which fill in aspects of pterosaurs' life cycle that have been poorly understood until now.

The areas for muscle attachment of important flight muscles were either small or nonexistent in the unhatched animals, while the legs appeared to be more complete. This, too, is an embarrassment of riches because it means scientists now have more information about how pterosaurs progressed from egg to adult than ever before.

Aside from these eggs, fossils of hundreds of Hamipterus were discovered. "Not even in your dreams, '" Kellner told the Times.

As the waters raged on that ancient Chinese lake, numerous pterosaur eggs split open, letting in sediments that ultimately preserved their oblong shapes.

"What's on my wish list?" says coauthor Alexander Kellner, a paleontologist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Example of fossilized pterosaur eggs. This can be explained by several factors, including the presence of embryos in distinct embryological stages, differential preservation of bones, and loss of elements during transport and burial, with part of the egg content expelled. The seemingly weak arms came as a surprise, because many paleontologists thought that pterosaurs were fliers almost straight out of the egg. For starters, he said, the embryos in question were likely only halfway done growing, so they would have developed more before they hatched out.

So why did they find 215 eggs in one place? Others boasted wild and insane crests, which may have been used to attract the opposite sex, as has been suggested with H. tianshanensis.

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