15 November 2011 by Alison Cornmell
Here curator and dino-expert Geoff Tresise talks about one of the smaller stars of the exhibition, the Oviraptor.
In 1929, American scientists found a rich trove of dinosaur bones in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. Most were those of the small horned dinosaur Protoceratops. More exciting still was the discovery of nests of dinosaur eggs – the first ever found. There were also a few fossils of an odd-looking dinosaur which had no teeth, and was thought to have fed on dinosaur eggs.
It was given the name Oviraptor which means “Egg Thief”. This seemed proved when an Oviraptor skeleton with a crushed skull was found near a nest of eggs – the would-be thief seemingly trampled to death by the angry parent dinosaur.
However in the 1990s this belief was challenged by two startling new discoveries. A dinosaur egg was found containing the tiny bones of an unhatched embryo. Unexpectedly this embryo proved to be that of Oviraptor, not Protoceratops. Then an Oviraptor fossil was found crouched over a nest, seemingly killed while trying to protect its eggs during a sandstorm. The supposed “egg thief” was in reality the devoted parent.
Visit the ‘Age of Dinosaurs’ exhibition to see Oviraptor defending its nest here threatened by a giant predator.
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