The Guardian takes us to Xinjiang, where paleontologists have opened a new window onto the past by unearthing an amazing trove of fossilized pterodactyl eggs:
Scientists said on Thursday they unearthed 215 eggs of the fish-eating Hamipterus tianshanensis – a species whose adults had a crest atop an elongated skull, pointy teeth and a wingspan of more than 11ft (3.5m) – including 16 eggs containing partial embryonic remains.
“We want to call this region ‘Pterosaur Eden,’” said paleontologist Shunxing Jiang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.
Until now, no pterosaur eggs had been found with embryos preserved in three dimensions. Researchers think up to 300 eggs may be present, some buried under the exposed fossils.
The embryonic bones indicated the hind legs of a baby Hamipterus developed more rapidly than crucial wing elements like the humerus bone, said paleontologist Alexander Kellner of Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro.
“Some birds can fly on the same day they break out from the egg, while some others will need a long period of parental care. Our conclusion is that a baby Hamipterus can walk but can’t fly,” Jiang said, an unexpected finding.
The researchers believe these pterosaurs lived in a bustling colony near a large freshwater lake.