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Some Dinosaurs Slept Like Modern Birds and It's Cute as Hell

Would cuddle, no question.

By Cassidy Ward

Everyone who goes to Jurassic Park – later Jurassic World – wants to see the dinosaurs run, chase, hunt, and eat. They want to see flashing claws and gnashing teeth. They want to see the dinosaurs be monsters. It’s a legacy that has haunted the dinosaurs since their bones first emerged from the Earth, indeed even the name “dinosaur” directly translates to something like “terrible” or “monstrous lizard.”

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No one ever wants to see the dinosaurs be cute and that’s a huge missed opportunity. Far from terrible or monstrous, and less “lizard” than we originally supposed, the dinosaurs were a vastly diverse group of animals with a wide range of characteristics and behaviors. Recently, paleontologists found a new species and genus of theropod dinosaur which died as it slept, curled up like a prehistoric cutie patootie. The results were published in the journal PLOS One.

Newly Discovered Dinosaur Slept Adorably Like Modern Birds

Paleontologists uncovered the specimen at the Nemegt locality of the Nemegt Basin in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. The skeleton is nearly complete and articulated mostly as it was at the time of death. Scientists were able to get so much information from the fossil that they were able to identify it as a new species and genus of Alvarezsaurus dubbed Jaculinykus yaruui.

An illustrated life restoration of Jaculinykus yaruui in its sleeping position

The species is dated to the Late Cretaceous, between approximately 84 and 72 million years ago. In addition to being one of the most complete Alvarezsaurus specimens ever found, it revealed something about behavior that makes the animal feel alive even tens of millions of years after its death. As far as we can tell, the animal laid down for a quick rest and never woke up again. It was buried in sediment, protected from scavengers and the elements, and preserved in place.

RELATED: If Dinosaurs Went Extinct, Why Are There Still Birds?

That the animal died in its sleep isn’t all that special, but how it was sleeping is. A description of the fossil in the published study reads as follows: “The hind limbs folded on either side of the body; the left forelimb folded next to the body with the elbow; the neck curved posteriorly on the right side of the body; the tail positioned on the left side and curled around the flexed hind limbs to the right.” In other words, it slept like a modern bird, its head curled around and tucked into the body.

Image of the articulated alvarezsaurid skeleton

Some twisting of the body is present in the preserved fossil, likely from crushing or sediment shifting during or after burial. Still, the organization of the bones is largely how the animal would have been lying in its final moments. In addition to giving the animal a burst of personality from beyond the grave, it also helps scientists understand its morphology and the evolution of modern bird-like qualities. The individual is believed to have been close to maturity, based on the fusion of certain vertebrae, at the time of death.

So much of our dinosaurian picture is adversarial in nature, painted in blood. It’s nice to know that sometimes dinosaurs were just cute and that if we’re very lucky we might get to glimpse them during their quieter moments every now and again.

In the meantime, you can slake your thirst for saurian violence with Jurassic World, streaming now on Peacock.

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