Zhao Chuang

Smuggled dino eggs gave birth to ‘baby dragons’

In the early 1990s, scientists discovered an unusual cache: a set of large, thick-shelled fossil eggs topped by a single dinosaur embryo, previously entombed in rocks smuggled out of the Henan province of China. After the fossils were recovered and ultimately returned, scientists carefully analyzed the embryo—nicknamed “Baby Louie”—and determined that the 90-million-year-old remains represent a new species of giant oviraptorosaur, which they dubbed Beibeilong sinensis (“baby dragon from China”), they report today in Nature Communications. Whereas the embryo measured a mere 38 centimeters from its snout to the base of its tail, adults of the species (above) were no lightweights. B. sinensis likely stood about 3.5 meters tall at the hip and weighed in at about 1.4 metric tons, the researchers estimate. The finding means that Baby Louie isn't the only fossil to gain an identity: The same fossil eggs that were found with him, known as Macroelongatoolithus, are commonly unearthed at dig sites across Asia and North America, but paleontologists previously didn’t know what types of creature laid them. Although the fossil record of giant oviraptorosaurs is sparse, based on the wealth of Macroelongatoolithus that are known it now seems that giant oviraptorosaurs were common creatures during the Cretaceous period.