Over 200 Fossilised Pterosaur Eggs Discovered In China

0
100
Palaeontologists Dr Wang Xiaolin and Dr Alexander Kellner collecting egg fossils
Palaeontologists Dr Wang Xiaolin and Dr Alexander Kellner collecting egg fossils

Fossils of this thin-shelled egg are extremely rare, but a windfall has bestowed researchers with hundreds of intact samples

 

Text  Sonali Roy
Photos Alexander Kellner

 

Palaeontologists say China is now the world’s leading source of pterosaur research, after hundreds of fossilised eggs, some with the embryos’ bones intact, were discovered in the far northwest of the country. The eggs of the Hamipterus tianshanensis species are well known for their fragile shells, making the discovery an absolute windfall. To date, only 10 other eggs have been uncovered, five of which are also from China.

Dr Wang Xiaolin from Beijing’s Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Paleoanthropology, and Dr Alexander Kellner from Brazil’s Federal University of Rio de Janeiro discovered the fossils in Xinjiang’s Turpan-Hami Basin, the fourth-lowest exposed point on Earth. Why so many eggs were found there is still a mystery, though Dr Kellner suggests pterosaurs may have laid eggs near riverbanks that suffered heavy flooding, submerging the eggs and preserving them.

 

Pterosaur Hamipterus tianshanensis – this flying reptile lived in Asia in the Cretaceous period
Pterosaur, Hamipterus tianshanensis – this flying reptile lived in Asia in the Cretaceous period (Photo © Alexander Kellner)

 

The researchers are trying to piece together how Hamipterus developed by comparing bones from individuals of different ages, but the incomplete fossil record is making that job difficult. The team’s hunt for more fossils in northwestern China continues. “I think we have a good chance,” Dr Kellner says. “It’s just
a question of fieldwork.”

China is on a roll in fossil discoveries. Barely a month after the pterosaur windfall, another 30 fossilised dinosaur eggs were discovered by workers at a construction site in Ganzhou, China’s “hometown of dinosaurs”, in Jiangxi Province. The perfectly preserved eggs are about 130 million years old.

 

Related: The Ghost Lands

Related: The Tree of Life

Related: Priest, Pachyderm, and Pygmy

 

For more stories and photographs from this issue, see Asian Geographic Issue 129, 2018

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

fifteen − twelve =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.