Scientists Discover New Species Of Dinosaur Perfectly Preserved By Volcanic Eruption
Two perfectly preserved fossils - believed to be around 125 million years old - were discovered in the Lujiatun Beds, in north-eastern China.
Palaeontologists at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) think the burrowing creatures may have been trapped by a volcanic eruption, leaving behind 'two magnificent skeletons'.
"These animals were quickly covered by fine sediment while they were still alive or just after their death," said Pascal Godefroit, palaeontologist at the RBINS.
Scientists have named the species 'Changmiania liaoningensis', with Changmiania meaning 'eternal sleep' in Chinese - which is quite poetic for scientists really.
But anyways, back to the sciencey stuff. They say the species was a herbivorous, bipedal dinosaur of about 1.2 metres in length - which if you're not very sciencey at all basically means it ate plants, walked on two legs and wasn't very big, by dinosaur standards anyway.
It's also been described as the most primitive ornithopod dinosaur to date, ornithopods being a group of herbivorous dinosaurs that flourished in the Cretaceous period (between 66 and 145.5 million years ago).
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They also reckon its powerful hind legs and stiff tale would have made it a particularly rapid little critter.
View this post on InstagramA Chinese Sleeping Beauty! :heart_eyes: Palaeontologists have described a new species of burrowing #dinosaur from #China. Two intact fossils of Changmiania liaoningensis suggest that the animals were trapped by a #volcanic eruption while resting at the bottom of their burrows. The species just described is the most primitive ornithopod dinosaur to date, a group that also include the Bernissart Iguanodons. The Lujiatun Beds are the oldest layers of the famous Yixian Formation, which for more than 20 years has produced several hundred beautifully preserved skeletons of feathered dinosaurs in the Liaoning Province in north-eastern China. They date back to 125 million years ago and are contemporary with the Bernissart Iguanodons, our stars here @rbinsmuseum Unlike the fossils found in the more recent parts of the Yixian Formation, the dinosaurs found in the Lujiatun Beds have not retained any traces of feathers. However, most of the skeletons are incredibly well preserved in three dimensions, without their bones having been moved after the death of the animal. "These animals were quickly covered by fine sediment while they were still alive or just after their death," says palaeontologist Pascal Godefroit (@rbinsmuseum). Some #paleontologists believe that these dinosaurs were victims of a gigantic #volcanic eruption. :volcano: Clouds of ashes would have instantly covered the Liaoning forest dwellers. The Lujiatun Beds would have been a kind of Cretaceous 'Pompeii'. Godefroit and his Chinese and French colleagues have just described a new genus of dinosaur based on two magnificent skeletons discovered in the Lujiatun Beds and conservated in the Liaoning Paleontological Museum in Shenyang, China. It was named Changmiania liaoningensis, Changmian meaning 'eternal sleep' in Chinese. It was a small, herbivorous, bipedal, fast-running dinosaur, about 1.2 metres long. It is the most basal representative of #ornithopods found to date. Ornithopods are a group of herbivorous dinosaurs that flourished particularly in the #Cretaceous period and which includes the Bernissart Iguanodons, as well as the hadrosaurs or duck-billed dinosaurs. More: link in profile #naturalsciencesbrussels
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Godefroit said: "Certain characteristics of the skeleton suggest that Changmiania could dig burrows, much like rabbits do today.
"Its neck and forearms are very short but robust, its shoulder blades are characteristic of burrowing vertebrates and the top of its snout is shaped like a shovel.
"So we believe that both Changmiania specimens were trapped by the volcanic eruption when they were resting at the bottom of their burrows 125 million years ago."
The team's findings were published in the PeerJ scientific journal earlier this month, which you can read here if you fancy learning a load more about the Changmiania liaoningensis.
Featured Image Credit: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences