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Researchers Discover The First 3D Flying Reptile Eggs In China

Update Date: Jun 05, 2014 01:52 PM EDT

Researchers have unearthed the first three-dimensionally preserved eggs of ancient winged reptiles that lived more than 100 million years ago. 

Researchers discovered five intact eggs and dozens of adult fossils of a new type of pterosaur - a group of prehistoric winged reptiles that dominated the skies during the Jurassic and Cretaceous period. 

"We found a lot of pterosaur bones which belong to different individuals in the sites, with five eggs," said study researcher Xiaolin Wang, a paleontologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropologyat the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, in the press release.

Up until now only four individual flattened pterosaur eggs had ever been found. 

The researchers found the fossils of the new genus and species, Hamipterus tianshanensis, in an area first excavated in 2005 in the Turpan-Hami Basin, located south of the Tian Shan Mountains in Xinjiang, in northwestern China, reported LiveScience

Researchers also added that thousands of bones may be hidden in the area where the eggs and skulls of adult male and female pterosaurs were found. 

According to researchers, the newly uncovered pterosaurs likely perished in a storm about 120 million years ago. 

The cluster of fossils suggest that pterosaurs preferred living together in large social groups, researchers said. 

"This is definitely the most important pterosaur site ever found," said paleontologist Zhonghe Zhou, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, as quoted by Reuters

"One of the significant (aspects) of this discovery - hundreds of individuals and eggs together from one site - is that it confirmed that pterosaurs were gregarious, and the population size is surprisingly large," Zhou added.

Researchers reported their findings in the journal Current Biology. 

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