Oviraptor – The Egg Snatcher
The Oviraptor is one of the most controversially studied dinosaurs to ever be discovered. As a Cretaceous period creature, these animals and their habits have been the focal point of long disputes within the Palentology world. Below you’ll discover everything you ever wanted to know about the Oviraptor and the arguments surrounding their species.
|25 – 34 kg (55-75 lbs)
|1.5 meters (5 ft)
|1 – 1.5 meters (3 – 5 ft)
|Central & Southern Asia
What Did Oviraptor Look Like?
Oviraptor was a bird-like Bipedal Saurischia Dinosaur
Classified in the Saurischia category, these dinosaurs were bi-pedal, meaning they ran and walked on 2 legs that were slender and bird-like in appearance. This is unusual for a dinosaur that was unable to fly and unrelated to other avian-like species. Although, the process of evolution could have given new Oviraptors feathers and a curvier beak to use to crack open seeds. They were multi-colored around their head, but green and brown were the main hues of the Oviraptor’s body. Scientist and fellow discoverer, Henry Fairfield Osborn, described the Oviraptor as a mimicker of birds, stating that it likely made a squawking sound to communicate.
Physical Attributes of Oviraptor
The Oviraptor was a light-weight animal, only weighing in at a maximum of 75 pounds and standing as tall as 8 feet. It’s body type made it adept at moving quickly, much like an Ostrich would today, with the ability to run at up to 43 mph. Topped with short arms, the Oviraptor had three fingers and toes for power and strength. When in pursuit of prey, it would pursue a smaller and slower moving animal for miles before grasping it with taloned feet and working it’s clawed hands into the other dinosaur’s hide.
A curved and flexible neck allowed the Oviraptor to see prey and predators from all angles. Huge owl-like eyes gave them a keen sense of sight. Capable of twisting it’s head at an almost 180 degree angle, these dinosaurs used their parrot-shaped beaks to intimidate predators. Snapping their powerful jaws together in rapid succession would usually ward off carnivores.
The Crest of Oviraptor
Oviraptors also used their beaks to tell each other apart with a small crest-like nub that sat on top of their heads. Differences in color and size allowed the Oviraptors to distinguish which among them were female or male and if a particular dinosaur was of their species. These crests changed color and plumped in size when a male reached puberty or when a female came into heat. It was a signal to other Oviraptors that their fellow dinosaur was ready for a mate.
Oviraptor Parenting Habits
What makes the Oviraptors so controversial in the world of Dino studies is the fact that the fossilized eggs underneath the first Oviraptor discovery had no embryos. Later, a clutch of Oviraptor eggs were found not far from the original site in Mongolia, each one containing a perfectly fossilized embryo. It’s been argued that because the first Oviraptor fossil was seated on top of a clutch of eggs, it was a nurturer with hopes of hatching the eggs rather than eating them. The leading dispute on this is that the original eggs without embryos were actually Oviraptor eggs that had been misidentified.
It’s unknown whether the male or female was the one to sit with and keep the eggs warm. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough evidence for researchers to distinguish a male Oviraptor from a female. The “mom” would lay 15-20 eggs at one time, but not all of them would survive. Some would be eaten by predators and others would simply never hatch. However, speculation points to both parents being present through the baby Oviraptor’s first years of life, teaching it to hunt and protecting it in a group from predators. Like birds do, matured Oviraptors would eventually leave their family in search of finding a mate and beginning a new family of their own.
What Did Oviraptor Eat?
Initially, it was believed that Oviraptors only ate eggs, based on the clutch that was originally found with the first fossil. Oviraptors were later deemed omnivores; a type of dinosaur who eats everything from plants and seeds to insects and smaller dinosaurs. They had large-brains and are considered one of the more intelligent species of dinosaur; therefore, it was easier for them to acquire food in less than satisfactory conditions.
Around the same time, the part of Mongolia where the Oviraptors lived has been thought to have been covered by water in some parts. This means that the Oviraptors would have also had access to mollusks, oysters, and other tasty crustaceans. While Oviraptors probably also ate the eggs of other dinosaurs, they were caring parents to their own young and aren’t rumored to have ever resorted to cannibalism like so many other species in that period.
How Did Oviraptor Move?
The Oviraptor relied on lithe legs to carry it’s light-weighted body across great distances. Reaching a speed of 43 mph, these animals could outrun the majority of their fellow dinosaurs. A forward lean gave the Oviraptor leverage and it could navigate easily with the slightest turn of it’s body. With only three toes, these dinosaurs counted on their three-inch long talons for climbing and speeding over rough terrain. When walking, the Oviraptor had a distinctive waddle similar to chickens and ducks.
Predators of Oviraptor
As an omnivore, the Oviraptor was a neutral target for meat-eaters. Larger carnivores, such as a Tyrannosaurus Rex, would have been able to easily take down a lone Oviraptor because the omnivore would have been naturally weaker. Fortunately, Oviraptors were likely pack animals who stayed in groups for protection and nurtured their young; therefore, carnivores and predators would have had a harder time picking one to eat. Even natural enemies would have had a hard time chowing down on an Oviraptor because of the claws, talons, and hard beak that would have been used in defense.
The History Of Discovering Oviraptor
Where Did Oviraptor Live?
Oviraptors are believed to have walked the Earth around the Cretaceous period. Evolution of some animals was taking place while others, such as many species of dinosaurs, would end in extinction. The diversity of the Cretaceous period made an interesting backdrop for the Oviraptor because the temperatures were changing and all life seemed to be evolving. The first discovery was made in the Mongolian desert, meaning these animals could thrive in sweltering daytime climates and chilling evening winds.
Palentologists believed this natural anomaly would have resulted in changes of Oviraptors, perhaps making new hatchlings stronger and more capable of surviving the changing world around them. This means they could have lived anywhere there was shelter, namely caves and leafy areas for easy concealment.
Ovipator Specimen Discovery
In 1924, a surge of paleontologists and archeologists were directed to a digging spot in the Mongolian desert. Once there, they unearthed the remains of the first fossilized Oviraptor under 4 inches of sand and dirt. The group was headed by palentologist, Roy Chapman Andrews, who passed his discovery on to Henry Fairfield Osborn; a scientist responsibility for the description and analysis of the Oviraptor’s structure and personality.
Bits and pieces of the dinosaur’s skeleton were found seated atop a clutch of Protoceratops eggs; hence the name Oviraptor, which roughly translates to “egg snatcher” in Greek. It was presumed that the Oviraptor had intentions of devouring the eggs but instead met with an untimely and unfortunate end.
The Importance Of The Oviraptor
Oviraptors were reported to live in a time right before the extinction of the dinosaurs from Earth. This gives scientists a look into how these animals dealt with evolution and how the hatchlings would have evolved right before extinction. They can only speculate what these creatures would have become over years of progress and change. Some researchers think by studying and understanding the Oviraptor, we can better understand the anatomy and mechanics of modern birds.