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Oldest dinosaur organic matter found in prehistoric embryos

Taking a quick break from tech to look at something equally awesome – dinosaurs – palaeontologists working in China have uncovered embryos from nearly 200 million years ago, some containing unfossilised organic matter, making it the oldest such material found of any land-based vertebrate.

The petrified embryos entered the fossilised state at different stages of development, giving palaeontologists an interesting look at how dinosaurs developed. It’s thought at the moment that they came from either a Massospondylus or Lufengosaurus, though further testing of the organic matter within the embryos – believed to be collagen – should help narrow it down further.

But what if life finds a way?

So far analysis of the embryos suggests a consistently rapid development and growth, leading some to speculate that despite the size of sauropod dinosaurs, that they could in-fact have quite a short incubation period. As Nature puts it, “In addition, asymmetric radial growth of the femoral shaft and rapid expansion of the fourth trochanter suggest that embryonic muscle activation played an important role in the pre-hatching ontogeny of these dinosaurs.” 

In other words, muscle growth was paramount during embryonic development.

KitGuru Says: Dinosaurs rule. I still have an old stack of magazines by Orbis that I bought back in the early 90s. A lot of the information is out of date but they’re still awesome. Anyone else wanted to be a palaeontologist when they were a little ‘un?

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