By Paul Rincon
Scientists have uncovered the first evidence of live births in the group of animals that includes dinosaurs, crocodiles and birds.
All examples of this group, known as the Archosauromorpha, lay eggs.
This led some scientists to wonder whether there was something in their biology that prevented live births.
But examination of the fossil remains of a very long-necked, 245 million-year-old marine reptile from China revealed it was carrying an embryo.
Jun Liu, first author of the new study in Nature Communications, told BBC News that the animal would have measured between three and four metres long, with a neck that was about 1.7m long.
The embryo may have been around half a metre long and is positioned inside the rib cage of the adult Dinocephalosaurus fossil, which was discovered in 2008 in Luoping County, Yunnan Province in southern China.
Researchers had to consider whether the smaller animal might have been part of the adult’s last meal. But it’s facing forward, whereas swallowed prey generally face backwards because predators consume the animal head first to help it go down the throat.
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