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The 'first ever' bird fossil with an egg preserved inside the body has been discovered.
Scientists say that the 'incredibly well preserved' find, dating back to the time of the dinosaurs, sheds new light on the reproduction of birds.
Specimen - Species - Avimaia - Schweitzerae - Deposits
The specimen, representing a new species called Avimaia schweitzerae, was discovered in 110-million-year-old deposits in north western China.
It belongs to a group called the Enantiornithes - 'opposite birds' - which were common all around the world during the Cretaceous Period and lived alongside the dinosaurs.
Scientists - Tragic - Egg - Bird
But scientists discovered a further tragic secret - the egg may have killed the 'mother bird'.
The discovery was made by a team of scientists led by Doctor Alida Bailleul and Doctor Jingmai O'Connor from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Dr - Bailleul - Fossil - Remains - Egg
Dr Bailleul said: 'The new fossil is incredibly well preserved, including the remains of an egg inside its abdomen.
'Because the specimen is crushed flat, it was only after a small fragment was extracted and analysed under the microscope that the team realised that the unusual tissue was an egg.
Analysis - Eggshell - Fragment - Number - Facts
'Detailed analysis of the eggshell fragment revealed a number of interesting facts indicating the reproductive system of this female bird was not behaving normally.
'The egg shell consists of two layers instead of one as in normal healthy bird eggs, indicating the egg was retained too long inside the abdomen.
Condition - Living - Birds - Result - Stress
'This condition often occurs in living birds as a result of stress. The unlaid egg then gets coated in a second layer - or sometimes more - of eggshell.
'This abnormality has also been documented in sauropod dinosaurs, as well as in many fossil and living turtles.
Addition - Eggshell - Avimaia - Thinner - Sheet
'In addition, the eggshell preserved in Avimaia was extremely thin - thinner than a sheet of paper - and did not show the correct proportions of healthy eggs.'
'These abnormalities suggest that...
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