Egg-citing dino find

Egg-citing dino find – fossilized embryo of a carnivorous dinosaur called Oviraptor found in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia

Peter Fairley

This just found: the fossilized embryo of an Oviraptor, a meat-eating dinosaur, curled within its egg – the first one ever discovered. Though Oviraptor means “egg thief” in Latin, the find has cleared the species of this nasty reputation, says Mark Norell, a paleontologist with the American Museum of Natural History.

Oviraptors got their negative name in 1923 from paleontologists who found an adult Oviraptor fossil perched over a nest of eggs in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. The adult dinosaur was thought to be stealing the eggs of a plant-eating Protoceratops, whose fossils are abundant in the Gobi.

Over the past five years, Norell’s team has found hundreds of similar eggs. But this is the first one with an embryo inside. According to Norell, the embryo’s skull, with its long, toothless beak, marks it as a nearly hatched Oviraptor – definitely not a Protoceratops.

That means the eggs discovered beneath the “menacing” Oviraptor were probably not its next meal. Rather, says Norell, they were more likely its offspring. Like a modern bird, he says, the Oviraptor was most likely keeping its own eggs warm until they were ready to hatch.

COPYRIGHT 1995 Scholastic, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group