A new species of a burrowing dinosaur has been discovered by paleontologists in China. This exciting discovery is even more special due to the fact that the skeletons are relatively unscathed. They have not suffered weathering or scavenging, making them perfect for analysis and research.
New dinosaur discovery in the Yixian Formation
This new dinosaur is being referred to as Changmiania liaoningensis. Paleontologists have discovered two fossils from the same species so far. They discovered them in the Lujiatun Beds in the Yixian Formation of China’s western Liaoning Province.
The Yixian Formation is estimated to have come about around 125-121 million years ago, making it part of the Barremian and early Aptian periods.
You can find the full study of these exciting new fossils in the Paleontology and Evolutionary Science journal, Peer J Life & Environment.
According to the study, specimens from these fossils were originally brought to the Paleontological Museum of Liaoning in Shenyang by farmers. These farmers simply stumbled upon them during a day’s work.
According to Jon Haworth with Good Morning America, scientists believe this means that a volcanic eruption trapped the dinosaurs in their underground burrows, where they turned into perfect fossils.
“The Lujiatun Beds would have been a kind of Cretaceous ‘Pompeii’,” said the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
“These animals were quickly covered by fine sediment while they were still alive or just after their death,” says paleontologist Pascal Godefroit.
The dinosaur fossils date back 125 million years.
The Chinese and French paleontologists who discovered the fossils named them Changmiania. This refers to Changmian, which means “eternal sleep” in Chinese.
Scientists have determined that Changmiania was a small, herbivorous and bipedal creature that was about four feet long. It was also a ornithopod, which were a group of herbivorous dinosaurs that flourished in the Cretaceous period. Other ornithopods include Bernissart Iguanodons and duck-billed dinosaurs.
They also think Changmiania was a very fast runner. This is due to its powerful hind legs and its long and stiff tail.
“Certain characteristics of the skeleton suggest that Changmiania could dig burrows, much like rabbits do today”, says Godefroit. “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.”