Called Changmiania liaoningensis, these animals were probably taking a nap in their burrows when they were hit by a volcanic eruption.
A group of paleontologists discovered a new species of dinosaur in China, called Changmiania liaoningensis, which means “eternal sleeper from Liaoning”.
Found in the province of Liaoning, the fossils suggest that two of these animals were sleeping in their burrows by the time they were hit by a volcanic eruption.
The newly described species is an ornithopod, a group of bipedal dinosaurs that thrived in the Cretaceous period, approximately 125 million years ago.
There is no evidence that the Changmiania liaoningensis had feathers.
State of preservation
The fossils are in an excellent state of preservation, with no signs that the bones have been moved after the animals died.
“These animals were quickly covered by fine sediment while they were still alive or just after their death,” said paleontologist Pascal Godefroit, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
C. liaoningensis were small, herbivorous dinosaurs, about 1.2 meters long. They were related to dinosaurs such as iguanodons and hadrosaurs, which were also ornithopods.
With their very powerful hind legs and long, rigid tail, C. liaoningensis were natural runners.
“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,” Godefroit concluded.
The study describing the new species was published earlier this month in the journal Peer J.