Using state of the art technology, scientists made the discovery while analysing a 125-million-year-old dinosaur fossil.
According to palaeontologists at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) it’s the oldest ‘belly button’ ever found in a reptile or mammal.
Uncovered in China over 20 years ago, the fossil belongs to a dinosaur species known as Psittacosaurus which researchers describe as a “two-legged plant eater” that’s about two metres long from the Cretaceous period (145 – 66 million years ago).
It’s relatively close in species to a Triceratops.
Assistant Professor of CUHK’s School of Life Sciences Dr Michael Pittman used a technique called Laser Stimulated Fluorescence (LSF) to identify the oldest ‘belly button’ in history.
“Using LSF imaging, we identified distinctive scales that surrounded a long umbilical scar in the Psittacosaurus specimen, similar to certain living lizards and crocodiles.
“We call this kind of scar a belly button, and it is smaller in humans. This specimen is the first dinosaur fossil to preserve a belly button, which is due to its exceptional state of preservation”.
An interesting note made by researchers was that dinosaurs laid eggs, rather than giving birth and therefore didn’t have an umbilical cord. The opening (belly button) was actually where the yolk sac was attached and sealed up after the egg hatched.
Aussie researcher from University of New England Dr Phil R Bell commented on the importance of the fossil.
“This Psittacosaurus specimen is probably the most important fossil we have for studying dinosaur skin. But it continues to yield surprises that we can bring to life with new technology like laser imaging.”
For eager dinosaur enthusiasts you can find the dinosaur and ‘belly button’ on display at the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt, Germany.