A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in China, one in Argentina and one in Belgium have identified the fossilized remains of two previously unknown dinosaurs in China. In their paper published in the journal Peerjdescribes the group the fossils, gives the name of the new dinosaur and illustrates possible clues to explain their excellent conservation.
The new dinosaur was actually discovered by farmers working in Liaoning province in northeastern China. They found the remains of two of the same new species that scientists have called Changmiania liaoningensis. Both were in almost pristine condition. The name means “eternal sleeper” in Chinese because both dinosaurs appeared to have been buried while alive with their eyes closed and looked as if they were asleep. The researchers suggest that the cause of the rapid death and almost untouched condition was probably due to a volcanic eruption that caught them both as they slept in their cave. The area where the dinosaurs were discovered was part of the plain that had been covered in dirt from an ancient massive volcanic eruption that had also covered many other creatures. The area is a well-known archeological burial site.
Both dinosaurs would have been just over a meter long when alive, with long, almost inflexible tails. They were an early ornithopod, a kind of dinosaur that walked upright on its large hind legs and dug itself into the ground like rabbits. They had also had shovel-shaped snouts, which would have helped dig quickly and efficiently. The neck and forearm were short but strong, and the shoulder blades resembled modern burrowing animals. The researchers suggest that the burrows where the dinosaurs had slept probably collapsed under the weight of dirt from the volcano, giving the dinosaurs no chance to dig themselves out. They also note that the tails of the dinosaurs had been stretched out due to stiffness. They also found a small cluster of rocks near the belly area on one of the samples – a sign that the dinosaur swallowed them like modern birds to help digest food.
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Yuqing Yang et al. A new basal ornithopod dinosaur from the lower Cretaceous of China, PeerJ (2020). DOI: 10.7717 / peerj.9832
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