Baby Louie Dinosaur Finally Finds Its Species

Posted: May 10 2017, 8:14am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Baby Louie Dinosaur Finally Finds Its Species
An artist’s illustration of a nesting gigantic cassowary-like dinosaur named Beibeilong is in the act of incubating its eggs. Credit: Zhao Chuang.
  • First baby of a gigantic Oviraptor-like dinosaur belongs to a new species

A 90 million year old dinosaur embryo fossil has been finally classified. Termed Baby Louie, it had been an orphan but has now been joined with its original family.

The fossil embryo nicknamed Baby Louie was found curled up within a batch of dinosaur eggs in 1990. However, it was an orphan (so to say) since its original family was missing from the fossil record of dinosaurs. The site was the Henan Province in China. Each egg was 18 inches in length and 6 inches in width.

"This particular fossil was outside the country for over 20 years and its return to China finally allowed us to properly study the specimen and name a new dinosaur species, Beibeilong sinensis or baby dragon from China." says Prof. Lü Junchang, a paleontologist at the Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.

These were the largest dinosaur eggs ever found on the planet. The signs of the parents of the eggs were not to be found anywhere. A flurry of speculation began and some even said that the eggs belonged to a tyrannosaur.

Yet today after more than two decades, the lineage of the dinosaurs has been delineated. Baby Louie belonged to a species of huge avian dinosaurs known as oviraptorosaurs.

They looked like cassowaries and ostriches and weighed as much as rhinos and were about the height of elephants. Baby Louie was further nicknamed Chinese Baby Dragon.

The adult species probably weighed more than 1000 kg. The carbon dating of the eggs of this dinosaur suggest that it was extant 100 million years ago.

The regions in which this dinosaur was commonly found include among their ranks: China, South Korea, Mongolia and North America. There was a widespread occurrence of this dinosaur during the Late Cretaceous Period.

Its remains have been few and far between though. Mostly the eggs of this dinosaur have been found. These eggs were excavated in the 80s and 90s. They were present beneath the earth in huge numbers.

The skeleton of one such embryo nicknamed Baby Louie caused quite a stir in the media when it was discovered for the first time. Thus identifying the family tree of Baby Louie took more than two decades.

"For many years it was a mystery as to what kind of dinosaur laid these enormous eggs and nests. Because fossils of large theropods, like tyrannosaurs, were also found in the rocks in Henan, some people initially thought the eggs may have belonged to a tyrannosaur," says Dr. Darla Zelenitsky, a professor at the University of Calgary who was part of the research team that described the fossil.

"Thanks to this fossil, we now know that these eggs were laid by a gigantic oviraptorosaur, a dinosaur that would have looked a lot like an overgrown cassowary. It would have been a sight to behold with a three ton animal like this sitting on its nest of eggs."

The remains of this dinosaur embryo were in foreign hands outside of its home turf of China. Baby Louie was a unique and singular embryo fossil. A single egg of this species of dinosaur weighed from 8 to 10 pounds.

The repatriation of this dinosaur embryo is a good thing, said one of the excavators. It marks a happy ending to the two decade long search for the species to which this embryo belonged.

The results of this study appear in a paper in the leading journal Nature Communications.

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