Temporal range: Upper Cretaceous
|Oviraptorid skeleton and eggs in the
Senckenberg Museum, Frankfurt am Main.
O. philoceratops Osborn, 1924 (type)
Oviraptor is a genus of dinosaurs from what is today Mongolia. Oviraptor was a relatively large-brained dinosaur which cared for its eggs. In 1924, an Oviraptor fossil was found on top of some eggs, and some thought that it had been eating the eggs. Others thought that the fossilized Oviraptor was probably a parent of the eggs in the nest, and not an egg stealer.
Oviraptor lived in the Upper Cretaceous period, about 75 million years ago. Only one definite specimen is known (with associated eggs), from Mongolia, though a possible second specimen (also with eggs) comes from the northeast region of Inner Mongolia, China.
Oviraptor is usually drawn with a distinctive crest, similar to that of the cassowary. However, re-examination of several oviraptorids show that this well-known, tall-crested species may actually belong to a relative of Oviraptor, the genus Citipati. It is likely that Oviraptor did have a crest, but its exact size and shape are unknown due to crushing in the skull of the only recognized specimen.
Judging by its relatives, Oviraptor probably had feathers. It had a toothless beak, but its feeding habits are unknown. The only Oviraptor philoceratops fossil preserved the remains of a lizard in the region of its stomach cavity, implying that the species was at least partially carnivorous.
In 1976, Barsbold put six more brooding (nest sitting) specimens into the genus Oviraptor, but these were later reclassified in the new genus Conchoraptor. Another specimen, IGN 100/42, is perhaps the most famous, owing to its well-preserved complete skull and large size. This specimen was referred to the genus Oviraptor by Barsbold in 1981, and was presented as Oviraptor in popular magazines and scientific studies. However, this specimen, with its distinctive tall, cassowary-like crest, was re-examined by the scientists who described the nesting oviraptorids, and found to resemble them more closely than the original specimens of Oviraptor. For this reason, they removed IGN 100/42 from the genus Oviraptor, suggesting it was a species of Citipati.
- Dong and Currie P. 1996. On the discovery of an oviraptorid skeleton on a nest of eggs at Bayan Mandahu, Inner Mongolia, People's Republic of China. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 33: 631-636.
- Clark J.M. Norell M.A. & Barsbold R. 2001. Two new oviraptorids (Theropoda:Oviraptorosauria), Upper Cretaceous Djadokhta Formation, Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 21: 209-213.
- Norell M.A; Gaffney & Dingus 1995. Discovering Dinosaurs. University of California Press.
- Norell M.A; Clark J.M; Chiappe and Dashzeveg 1995. A nesting dinosaur. Nature 378: 774-776.
- Barsbold R. 1981. Toothless dinosaurs of Mongolia. Joint Soviet-Mongolian Paleontological Expedition Transactions, 15: 28-39. [in Russian]
- Barsbold, R., Maryanska, T., and Osmolska, H. 1990. Oviraptorosauria, in Weishampel D.B. Dodson P. and Osmolska H. (eds) The Dinosauria. Berkeley: University of California Press, 249-258.