Researchers have found a new species of dinosaur caught in what they say ‘an eternal sleep’ as part of a breathtaking unearthing. The two incredibly well-preserved fossils of a new type of dinosaur have been discovered in China, and the species has been named Changmiania liaoningensis.
The name means ‘eternal sleeper from Liaoning’ in Chinese, and assays of the remains suggest they had a rather quick but peaceful death. Paleontologists found the small dinosaurs, which were 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) long herbivores, in Liaoning province, located in northeastern China. The animals belonged to the ornithopod family, which includes species as iguanodons and Hadrosauridae, and lived approximately 125 million years ago.
New Dinosaur Species
As per the scientists, the fossils were extremely well preserved as they were burrowing at that time, similar to what rodents do when they rest, and a massive volcanic eruption practically buried them in their sleep.
The thick layer of ash and sediment helped with the conservation of the animals, similar to how the victims of Pompeii were preserved because of the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius.
A statement from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences said: “Some paleontologists believe that these dinosaurs were victims of a gigantic volcanic eruption. Clouds of ashes would have instantly covered the Liaoning forest dwellers. The Lujiatun Beds would have been a kind of Cretaceous’ Pompeii’.”
Adding to the statement, paleontologist Dr. Pascal Godefroit said: “These animals were quickly covered by fine sediment while they were still alive or just after their death.”
Dinosaurs Covered in Fur
Because of the way in which the dinosaurs were preserved, experts could deduce their habits. In addition, besides the bodies, scientists found a few small pebbles around the stomach area, a paper that details the findings, published in the journal Peer J, notes.
The team believes the pebbles were gastroliths – small rocks that some animals, including whales and seals, ingest to help with digestion. The dinosaurs would have been covered in a light fur and, as per the modelings, had a strong beak-like mouth. They were rather quick, had a pair of hind legs and stiff tail, which would have been used for balance when running.
Dr. Godefroit added: “However, 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.”