Dinosaurs are a testament to the wonders of evolution. As Trouvailles Talks said in our first ‘Dino Discoveries’ instalment, most of us are introduced to dinosaurs as children through film, books, and TV. As tots, images of dinosaurs, such as the 50ft long Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, or 30ft Mapusaurus roseae can inspire fun filled technicolour dreams or terrifying night terrors. As adults we’re still fascinated by dinosaurs, and for those that suffer with Dinomania the wealth of fossils found in Mongolia is just the cure.
Recently dino lovers were sent into raptures when Mongolia’s Gobi Desert revealed a new species of Oviraptorosaur. Thought to have lived between 70 and 80 million years ago, the Oviraptorosaur also known as the (egg thief lizard) are a group of feathered maniraptoran (bird like) dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period. The new species has been named Gobiraptor minutus, a combination of ‘Gobi’ which refers to the Gobi Desert where the holotype specimen was found, and ‘raptor’ which is Latin for thief. Studies have provided a dearth of information on the preferred habitat, diet, and feeding strategies this strange looking creature employed.
What distinguishes the Gobiraptor minutus from other Oviraptorosaurs is the thickened rostrodorsal end of its mandibular symphysis, and its rudimentary lingual shelf on each side of the dentary, or in simpler terms, ‘thickened jaw’. A team of palaeontologists from Mongolia’s Institute of Palaeontology and Geology have linked this unique morphology to a specialised diet of hard materials, such as seeds, bivalves and molluscs. This singular trait also suggests a crushing feeding strategy, ending any argument these odd beasts were more suited to shearing plants than milling nuts.
Oviraptorids are some of the most disparate therapod dinosaurs from the late Cretaceous period. Finding the Gobiraptor minutus in the Nemegt Formation proves two things. 1.Oviraptorids were remarkably diverse in the Gobi Desert. 2. They were well adapted to wet environments, as the Nemegt Formation is a mesic habitat mainly made up of lake and river deposits.
Size wise, most oviraptorids can in comparison to other dinosaurs be considered small. Some were no more than the size of a turkey, but others like Gigantoraptor grew to more than 26ft in length! However, most oviraptorids grew to be 11ft long and weighed up to 500lbs. Their limbs were slender but muscular, their claw-tipped arms adapted to grasping. The feet were outsized, their large beaks though muscular were toothless and their skulls almost comical in their peculiarity. The Gobiraptor minutus as its name suggests is on the petite side, and if the artist rendering below is anything to go by, it was also seriously cute.
Our understanding of dinosaurs, one of the great wonders of this world is constantly changing. Once thought of as unthinking, ungainly, lumbering lizards, we now know they were anything but. These creatures were fleet of foot, intelligent and able to subsist on almost every possible habitable niche on land. The diversiform nature of the oviraptorosaur can be credited with developing our understanding of dinosaurs more than any other. If you’d like to see this latest find in the flesh or more aptly the bone, it is currently housed in the Institute of Palaeontology and Geology in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia.
For more information on conservation projects in Mongolia and Bhutan or to book one of our Birding, Trekking, Botany or Wildlife Tours, please contact 020 3877 0670.