bizarre dinosaur is unlike any other known to science.
a brand new species of oviraptorosaur that has yet to be named.
Oviraptorosaurs were unusual theropods (generally meat-eating
dinosaurs) that lived during the Cretaceous Period, between
130-65 million years ago. Our oviraptorosaur is both the largest
and the geologically youngest oviraptorosaur yet discovered.
has a startling array of features. It is armed with long,
intimidating claws, yet it has no teeth. The bones are lightweight,
but strong. The skull is capped with an unusual crest. The
skeleton poses several intriguing riddles. What do these anatomical
features reveal about oviraptorosaurs, a group of dinosaurs
long shrouded in mystery? Where does this dinosaur fit on
the evolutionary tree of life?
Around the Oviraptorosaur
At first glance, this oviraptorosaur skeleton appears to be
a haphazard hodgepodge of improbable features. However, as
Carnegie Museum of Natural History scientists continue their study, they are finding that
there is much more to this creature than meets the eye.
Click the thumbnails for a larger view.
(represented by white overlay)
This bone, commonly known as the wishbone, is a feature
our oviraptorosaur shares with birds. Furculae are known
in several types of oviraptorosaurs. Although the furcula
of this oviraptorosaur was not preserved, Carnegie Museum of Natural History scientists
know it had one because there are sockets on the shoulder
blades where this bone would have been attached.
The oviraptorosaur's long, spindly legs suggest that this
dinosaur was able to move at a rapid pace.
Eyes and Sclerotic Ring
Although it looks unusual, the sclerotic ring, the bony
circle in the oviraptorosaur's eye socket, is actually
common in dinosaurs and may have been present in all
of them. In life, it lay inside the animal's eyeball,
but it is rarely preserved as a fossil. Sclerotic rings
are present today in the skulls of birds and many other
vertebrate animals. Large eye sockets indicate that
this animal most likely had sharp vision.
Although its long claws suggest it may have been a predator,
our oviraptorosaur's toothless beak seems poorly designed
for capturing and slicing up prey. A primitive oviraptorosaur
called Incisivosaurus has teeth like those of plant-eating
animals. So perhaps oviraptorosaurs were herbivores, not
carnivores. Or maybe the new oviraptorosaur could have
been somewhere in the middle — an omnivore with
the run of the Late Cretaceous smorgasbord, feasting on
both meat and plants.
Long arms, with sharp, wickedly hooked claws suggest that
this oviraptorosaur may have been a formidable hunter,
stalking the small animals that shared its environment.
Alternatively, the claws may have been used for defense
from other theropods.