oviraptorosaur skeletons were discovered in northwestern South
Dakota in rocks belonging to the famed Hell Creek Formation.
Other notable dinosaur discoveries from this area include
the duckbilled herbivore Edmontosaurus, the three-horned
Triceratops, the thick-skulled Pachycephalosaurus,
and the terrifying Tyrannosaurus rex. These animals
lived between 68 and 65 million years ago at the end of the
Mesozoic Era. At this time in Earth history, this area of
South Dakota was a warm, humid coastal plain drained by meandering
rivers that flowed into an ancient inland sea.
World of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Oviraptorosaur
oviraptorosaur wound its way through a balmy maze of forest
unlike any that exists on Earth today. Stands of palm trees,
other flowering plants, cycads, and unusual conifers thrived
beneath a canopy of broad-leafed deciduous and evergreen trees.
The oviraptorosaur shared this green world with a broad diversity
of other animals, including snails, clams, fishes, amphibians,
turtles, lizards, snakes, crocodile-like champsosaurs, true
crocodilians, pterosaurs, primitive birds, small mammals,
and other dinosaurs. Carnegie Museum of Natural History's
Vertebrate Paleontology collection contains fossils of many
of these animals. Click the thumbnails to learn more
about some of these creatures:
hatcheri” (BAY-nuh HATCH-er-eye)
(probably Eubaena cephalica or Stygiochelys
“John Bell Hatcher’s turtle”
This turtle shell is the holotype, or original specimen,
of the species “Baena hatcheri,”
named by Oliver Hay in 1901. Hay named this specimen
after celebrated Carnegie Museum of Natural History paleontologist John Bell Hatcher,
who had discovered it earlier that year.
vorax (die-DELF-o-don VORE-ax)
“Voracious opossum tooth”
animal was a carnivore and an extinct relative of modern
marsupials. Reaching the size range of the modern Virginia
opossum, Didelphodon is much larger than many
other tiny mammals that co-existed with dinosaurs at
the end of the Cretaceous in North America.
crocodyliform (you-SUE-key-en crock-oh-DIE-lih-form)
This very incomplete skeleton (including a possible
skull fragment, several vertebrae, and two dermal scutes)
belongs to a small relative of living crocodylians.
More specifically, we know it pertains to the group
Eusuchia, because its tail vertebrae are deeply concave
in front and convex behind.
Creek environment contained many rivers and lakes, which
were home to a variety of freshwater bivalves. The most
common of these are mussels belonging to the group Unionidae.
These animals used a pointed muscular foot to burrow
and move around.
Life of the Hell Creek Formation
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History oviraptorosaur inhabited a humid, forested plain
that was populated by a rich diversity of plants and animals.
This environment is preserved in a rock unit that is known
today as the Hell Creek Formation. Flowering plants, which
had evolved earlier in the Cretaceous Period, were diverse
and abundant in this ecosystem.
represented in our exhibit include Ginkgo adiantoides
(similar to the modern ginkgo tree), Sabalites (a fan
palm), Platanus raynoldsii (a relative of modern sycamore
trees), and Palaeoaster inquirenda (a relative of modern