03/17/2009, 00.00
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Dinosaur grave found in Gobi Desert

Two life-sized models of the sinornithomimus are on display in Hohhot. They are part of a group of 25 fossilised birds found in 2001 who died from drought about 90 million years.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Two life-sized models of the sinornithomimus, a prehistoric animal similar to the modern ostrich that existed some 90 million years ago, were put on public display for the first time Monday in Hohhot, capital of Inner Mongolia, in northern China.

Found by a Sino-American team in 2001 in the Gobi Desert, the two-legged, feathered dinosaur fossils could reach 1.2 metres in height as adults.

The discovery is exceptional because it is the only site with well-preserved fossilised remains of 25 young sinornithomimus.

The position of the dinosaur bones suggests they were looking for water on the edge of a drying lake or a little pond, got stuck and died as the mud engulfed them.

Their hip bones were found at odd angles, indicating scavengers tugged at their carcasses. Crablike organisms were also found surrounding the skeletons, a clue that tells scientists they were covered in water shortly after death, which helped preserve them.

Paul Sereno, a palaeontologist from the University of Chicago and one of the founders, told AP that the discovery was comparable to Pompeii.

The bones of the sinornithomimus (literally, Chinese bird mimic) were spotted in 1978 by a Chinese geologist but were first excavated by a Sino-Japanese team some 20 years later.

It wasn't until 2001 that researchers were able to unearth all 25 skeletons and examine their findings.

They were brought to the University of Chicago for research and preservation but will return to China by the end of the year.


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