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Oviraptor philocerataps (Andrews, 1924)

Name Means: "Egg Robber" Length: 6 feet (2.5 m)
Pronounced: O-vih-Rap-tor Weight: 70 pounds (30 kilos)
When it lived: Late Cretaceous - 67 MYA    
Where found: Mongolia, China    
    Roy Chapman Andrews was a legendary and adventurous paleontologist.  Some say that the movie character  Indiana Jones was based on him. In the 1920s, he led an expedition into Mongolia that uncovered some amazing dinosaur fossils. One day the expedition photographer, James B. Shackleford, discovered a plant-eating dinosaur called Protoceratops . Later a technician named George Olsen found a nest of eggs close by that contained the bones of another dinosaur on top of the nest. He assumed that the eggs belonged to Protoceratops , but the bones associated with this nest were those of a meat-eating dinosaur. Because Protoceratops was a plant eater, he concluded that this new, previously unknown, dinosaur was stealing the Protoceratops eggs from the nest, and because of this it was named Oviraptor, which means egg thief.
    Many years later Dr. Philip Currie and a team of paleontologists uncovered another nest in Inner Mongolia and surprise, it contained Oviraptor bones on top of the nest as well. Another Mongolian expedition the following year even found parts of a tiny baby dinosaur skeleton (embryo) inside the same kind of egg. When they began to study these embryos they were surprised to learn that they were actually from an Oviraptor, and not Protoceratops .
   This discovery completely changed the world's view of Oviraptor. Dr. Currie and many other dinosaur hunters believe that the adult that was found with the nest was actually a mother or father Oviraptor sitting on the nest, much like a mother chicken does, to protect the eggs. Mongolia has very bad sandstorms, so it is now thought that the mother was protecting the eggs during a severe sandstorm that buried them. Dr. Currie and other scientists believe that this discovery is strong evidence that Oviraptors were excellent parents and that they cared for their young, much like modern birds.
    In addition to being good parents, scientists now believe that Oviraptors were also very particular about how they built their nests and laid their eggs. It appears as though Oviraptor nests had more than one layer and that the eggs were arranged in a spiral pattern. Dr. Currie believes that Oviraptor laid its eggs while turning in a clockwise circle. She laid two eggs at a time, then turned to the right and laid two more. The mother Oviraptor also might have used her hands to scoop sand on the eggs as she laid them. The nest probably ended up looking like a mound of sand. Not all dino hunters agree, but this is one theory.
    Oviraptor is a very unique dinosaur with some rather strange features. Instead of teeth it has a beak and something not seen in any other dinosaur, two teeth in the roof of its mouth. The reason it got its name is that when it was first discovered Oviraptor was sitting on a nest of eggs. It was thought it was stealing the eggs of another dinosaur. Years later, it was found that the eggs were its own and that it was trying to protect them from an approaching sandstorm.
    Oviraptor has another unusual feature - it has a thin crest of bone on its forehead. This crest seems to have grown and changed throughout its entire life. It may have been used as a form of individual identification or to differentiate gender. Also, different species of the Oviraptor genus had different crests. It is not clear what Oviraptor ate. Since it was probably not eggs, and it had very strong jaws, some think it would have eaten shellfish that it could easily crack open. Others argue that it must have been an herbivore as its skull did not show characteristics for meat eating.
   A North American Oviraptor was discovered in 1996 in South Dakota. This specimen is very large, almost 20 feet long. A trackway has also been associated with this find. It has not yet been described, nor named.

 

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