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Dinosaur embryo fossils reveal life inside the egg

Fossil finds have revealed a wealth of information about the dinosaurs that once roamed the Earth, but little has been known about the very earliest stages of their lives.

Three years ago, palaeontologists discovered fragments of fossilised bones in China’s Yunnan Province.

An analysis revealed that these were the remains of about 20 Lufengosaurus embryos, whose lives were cut short by a flood.

Prof Reisz said: “The nests were inundated by water and basically smothered, and the embryos inside the eggs died and then decayed.

The researchers studied the fossils using a variety of techniques, including histology and infrared spectroscopy with a synchrotron in Taiwan.

While the researchers cannot establish how long the incubation period was, this finding does suggest that it was short. The team believes the animals emerged well developed and might have continued to develop quickly.

Professor Reisz said: “We are hypothesising if this very fast growth rate we see in the embryos was maintained in the hatchlings and the juveniles, then we have a very fast growth rate in the initial stages of the life of this animal.”

The Lufengosaurus belongs to a group of dinosaurs called the sauropodomorphs, and is a predecessor of the sauropod, a true giant of the dinosaur world that could grow up to 60m (200ft) in length.

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