CHINA

 
Published: Saturday 31 May 1997

A treasure trove of dinosaur fossils has been discovered in a remote region of northeast China, according to an international team of paleontologists. Hundreds of major finds at the site include the first fossilised organs of dinosaurs ever seen and the first fossil of a dinosaur containing the remains of a mammal it had just eaten.

Several of the specimens excavated from the site seem to bear on the question of kinship between dinosaurs and birds. Among specimens recently recovered from the site by a Chinese team were more than 200 fossils of a primitive bird, Confucius ornis existing in the late Jurassic or early Cretaceous period - roughly 200 million years ago - which seems to have been suddenly wiped out, possibly by a huge volcanic eruption.

The site, near the village of Beipiao in Liaoning province in northeastern China, was discovered by a local farmer. The inspection group headed by John Ostrom, a retired Yale University professor, found that in one of the fossils, there was an oviduct containing an egg. This was the first fossilised internal organ ever found in a dinosaur.

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