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Appearance & Behavior Appearance & Behavior

oviraptorosaur skeletonThis bizarre dinosaur is unlike any other known to science.

It represents 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.

This dinosaur 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?

All 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.

furcula overlay Furcula (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.
legs Legs
The oviraptorosaur's long, spindly legs suggest that this dinosaur was able to move at a rapid pace.
sclerotic ring

Large 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.

skull Beak
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.
Arms and Claws
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.
Evolutionary History Ancient Environments Geography & Distribution Research at CMNH
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