Just when you thought that no new families were moving into the neighborhood, a new family of fossilized eggs belonging to flying reptiles of the dinosaur era were discovered in China’s eastern Anhui Province.
A team of scientists and researchers working in Northwestern China have discovered a fossilized nest containing ancient eggs. The Xiuning County of China’s Anhui Province was used as an inspiration for the name of the new specimen, Umbellaoolithus xiuningensis because the discovery was made in China’s Northwest territory. The eggs are quite distinct from all other previously discovered fossils of dinosaurs and reptiles, thus, researchers have classified them in a new dinosaur egg family. This new specimen belonged to the Hamipterus tianshanensis, a pterosaur with a 10 foot wingspan which resided in Asia during the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period, approximately 228 million to 66 million years ago.
The study, authored by Xiaolin Wang, a Beijing-based paleontologist at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences discovered approximately 215 eggs in a 120-million-year-old pterosaur boneyard in the arid Gobi Desert. When these pterosaurs were living in this area, the Gobi Desert used to be lush farmland, on the shores of a lake. According to researchers, the force of a natural disaster, caused the eggs to be washed into this lake, where they were laid to rest along bones of other pterosaurs, and preserved for millions of years.
This discovery by Dr. Wang and his team was particularly noteworthy and exceptional because the delicate three-dimensional eggs were filled with sixteen well-preserved embryos. These embryos allowed the paleontologists to uncover valuable information, helping them to draw a timeline as to how these creatures developed during their earlier stages of life. They hoped to understand the evolution of their life, beginning with reproduction, how they developed and ultimately learned to transport themselves. Through CT scanning of the delicate shells, they discovered partial wings and a toothless lower jaw to show that the flying ability came later in the pterosaurs’ life. According to additional evidence, these young flying reptiles were able to hop around before they were able to fly, perhaps dependent on their parents. Scientists first thought the species were able to fly shortly after they hatched.
Dr. Wang and his team are currently on the search for more eggs and embryos to continue the study and “unscramble the mysteries” of these extinct species. These discoveries will help scientists shed light on the study of prehistoric life in this region and contribute other global research of prehistoric and grand proportions.
Some of the information and pictures in this article came from the following sources:
Greshko, Michael. “Hundreds of Pterosaur Eggs Found in Record-Breaking Fossil Haul.” National Geographic, 30 Nov. 2017, news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/11/largest-pterosaurs-eggs-discovered-embryos-fossils-paleontology-science/#/ur-egg1HR.jpg. Accessed 23 Dec. 2017.
Khan, Amina. “These 215 Fossil Pterosaur Eggs Are Revealing New Clues about These Mysterious Flying Reptiles.” Los Angeles Times, 30 Nov. 2017, beta.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-pterosaur-eggs-20171130-htmlstory.html. Accessed 23 Dec. 2017.
“New Type of Fossilized Dinosaur Egg Found in China.” China Daily, 20 Oct. 2017, www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2017-10/20/content_33491330.htm. Accessed 23 Dec. 2017.
St. Fleur, Nicholas. “Hundreds of Fossilized Pterosaur Eggs Uncovered in China.” New York Times, 30 Nov. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/11/30/science/pterosaur-eggs.html. Accessed 23 Dec. 2017.