The fetal fossil of the dinosaur christened “Baby Louie” was discovered in China — surrounded by its brothers’ and sisters’ humongous eggs — in the early 1990s.
Since then, scientists have searched high and low for the 90-million-year-old embryo’s parents. But the species that had laid the 18-inch long, six-inch wide eggs remained a mystery.
Now, after 25 years of searching, Louie and his siblings — encased in the largest-known dinosaur eggs ever recorded — have finally been given a name: Beibeilong sinensis, or “baby dragon from China.”
These giant, birdlike creatures looked like ostriches but were as tall as elephants, according to National Geographic.
Had Louie grown up, new research shows, that he could have been more than 25 feet tall and weighed more than three tons.
His species belonged to a larger dinosaur group called oviraptors, whose eggs have been found in China, Korea, Mongolia, and the United States.
But while the eggs are common, the skeletons are rare. In fact, Louie is one of only three ever found.
With little information to go on, scientists first misclassified the skeleton as a therizinosaur — a group with big clawed hands — even though the physical characteristics seemed more oviraptor-esque.
When a new kind of giant oviraptor was found in 2007, things started to click at long last.
Not only was Louie confirmed to be an oviraptor — but he was an entirely new kind of dinosaur, the largest known to have sat on their nests and looked after their offspring.
“It was fantastic to finally get to this stage with Baby Louie,” Phillip Currie, a paleontologist who has been following Louie’s journey said.
Along with these revelations about Beibeilong sinensis, the little dragon has also taught the science community about dinosaur babies as a whole.
This newly described species was a giant bird-like dinosaur that laid eggs up to two feet long https://t.co/wBPipDmfXi
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) May 9, 2017
Before him, people didn’t know that infant dinosaurs had bigger heads, bigger eyes, and shorter snouts than their adult counterparts. But Louie proved that — like most of the world’s babies — little dinosaurs were probably pretty adorable.
Even with all of these new answers, Ken Carpenter, a member of the baby dragon research team, says that it’s still unknown whether or not Louie is actually a Louise.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “looking under the tail isn’t going to help.”
Next, learn about the fossilized dinosaur-like “sea serpent” recently discovered with a baby inside it. Then, check out these ten terrifying prehistoric creatures that weren’t dinosaurs.