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10 Egg-Cellent Facts About Oviraptor

Kabacchi, Flickr

Crested, cryptic, and named after a misunderstanding, Oviraptor’s sure to delight trivia buffs of all ages.   

1. It was (Perhaps Wrongfully) Accused of Egg-Napping.  

Leonora Enking, Flickr

Experts suspected foul play when this parrot-beaked dino was first unearthed in Mongolia in 1924. Lying beside that skeleton were some fossilized eggs thought to have been laid by a local herbivore named Protoceratops—so paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn called the new critter “Oviraptor,” or “egg thief.” But even he wasn’t 100 percent sold on the name. “[It] may entirely mislead us as to its feeding habits,” Osborn allowed, “and belie its character.”

His caution may have been justified. In 1994, 70 years after its discovery, very similar-looking eggs were described—eggs which contained Oviraptor-like embryos. Therefore, Osborn’s original specimen probably wasn’t a nest-raider but instead a mother minding her own brood.

2. Oviraptor Was Likely a Decent Parent.

Meet “Big Mama” (pictured above). This amazing skeleton—which belonged to a close Oviraptor relative dubbed Citipati—rests splayed out over its 75 million-year-old nest. Many have interpreted this dramatic position as the dutiful parent’s last-ditch effort to shield said clutch from an oncoming sandstorm which buried mother and eggs alike.

3. In Lieu of Teeth, Oviraptor had Spikes on the Roof of Its Mouth.

Kabacchi, Flickr

Like dental stalactites, weird, downward-dangling spikes were anchored to Oviraptor palates.  

4. We’re Not Quite Sure What Its Crest Looked Like.

Oviraptor did have a crest—that much is clear—but no complete skulls have been found. All known pieces of this ornament are fragmentary. Scientists once reimagined it as a nub-like protrusion above the nose, but it’s now generally thought to have been larger and somewhat U-shaped. 

5. Most Oviraptor Illustrations are Actually Based on a Different Dino.

The aforementioned Citipati is represented by several complete skeletons, so artists usually draw upon this less-famous dinosaur when sketching Oviraptor, to whom the fossil record hasn’t been as kind.

6. Oviraptor Had an Enormous Cousin.

With a name like Gigantoraptor, you’d expect this thing to really deliver in the size department—and at 26 feet in length, weighing well over a ton, it did just thatOviraptor was only about 5 feet long and probably weighed less than 100 pounds.

7. Oviraptor May Have Done some Tail Shaking.  

“Their tails were not only very, very flexible but quite muscular,” says University of Alberta researcher Scott Persons. His team discerned that Oviraptor and its kin could hold their tails at a sharp, upward angle for quite some time. Why? Perhaps males had some gaudy feathers back there, which they could shake to drive the ladies wild.

8. What Did It Eat? There’s No Shortage of Suggestions.

Jordi Payà, Flickr

Oysters, clams, lizards, veggies, and smaller dinos have all been proposed as dietary options. And given Oviraptor’s powerful jaws and puncturing, tooth-like spines, the scientific community can’t entirely strike eggs from the menu.

9. Don’t Go Confusing this Dino with Jurassic Park's Raptors.

That “—raptor” suffix can be misleading. Velociraptor and its nimble, sickle-clawed brethren are all technically known as dromaeosaurs. Dinosaurs like Oviraptor, Citipati, and Gigantoraptor belonged to a related (but separate) group called the oviraptorosauria.  Hopefully, we’ll see plenty of both gangs in the Jurassic Park series’ upcoming fourth installment.

10. One Oviraptorid Nest did Contain Some Velociraptor-Like Bones.

Leonora Enking, Flickr

How did two embryo-sized Velociraptor heads wind up in an Oviraptorid’s nest? Odds are these hatchlings became breakfast in bed, but paleontologist Mark Norell offers a more creative speculation: brood parasitism. Some modern birds, like the Old World cuckoo, lay their eggs in the nests of other species and, thus, defer parenting responsibilities to whichever unsuspecting avians they’ve targeted. Maybe dromaeosaur moms used this same trick. Clever girls...

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New LEGO Set Recreates Jurassic Park's Iconic Velociraptor Chase Scenes
LEGO
LEGO

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise, is skulking into theaters on June 22. That makes now the perfect time to revisit the original film in LEGO form.

This LEGO set, spotted by Nerdist, depicts some of the most suspenseful scenes from the 1993 movie. There's the main computer room where Ariana Richards's Lex shows off her hacker skills while Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) struggle to keep a hungry dinosaur from barging in. Just like in the film, the door features a deadbolt lock that's velociraptor-proof (though, unfortunately for the characters, the detachable window is not). Other Easter eggs hidden in this part include a map of Isla Nublar and a screener saver of LEGO Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight).

In the neighboring room, you'll find the cold storage unit where the dinosaur embryos are kept, along with the fake shaving cream can Nedry uses to steal them. The final section is the kitchen, where Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex are stalked by the velociraptor. There's less room for them to hide in the LEGO version compared to the movie set, but there is at least one functioning cabinet for Lex to tuck herself into. Closer inspection reveals even more details from the film, like the lime-green Jello Lex is eating when the raptors first arrive and the step ladder the gang uses to escape into the air ducts during the final chase.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

The Jurassic Park Velociraptor Chase set is currently available from the LEGO shop for $40.

[h/t Nerdist]

All images courtesy of LEGO.

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CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK
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Why Are There No More Dinosaurs?
CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK
CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Do you have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

Actually, there are still dinosaurs: Birds! But let’s talk about that a little later. Scientists have found clues in rocks and fossils that tell us that by 65 million years ago, the climate (CLY-met), or usual weather, of the Earth had changed a lot, becoming cooler and drier. That was hard on the heat-loving dinosaurs. But that’s not why almost all of the dinosaurs became extinct, or disappeared forever. Scientists think a terrible event occurred that killed them off.

In 1991, scientists discovered a huge 110-mile-long crater, or hole, in the Gulf of Mexico. They think this crater was made by a giant, fiery, 6-mile-wide asteroid (AST-er-oyd) from space that smashed into the Earth about 65 million years ago. The impact was more powerful than any bomb we have ever known. Scientists believe this event killed most plant and animal life—including the dinosaurs. The asteroid probably caused shockwaves, earthquakes, fireballs, wildfires, and tidal, or really big, waves. It also sent huge amounts of dust and gas into the atmosphere, which is like a big blanket of air that surrounds the Earth. That was really bad for the planet.

The dust blocked sunlight, making the planet very cold and dark. Then, over time, the gases trapped heat, causing the Earth to get even hotter than it was before the asteroid hit. This change was deadly for most dinosaurs, and they became extinct. But birds survived. Many millions of years earlier, they had evolved (ee-VOL-ved), or changed slowly over time, from one group of dinosaurs. And when the dinosaurs disappeared, mammals diversified (die-VERSE-uh-fide), or changed, into many different kinds of animals—including us, many millions of years later. So the next time you see a bird swoop by, wave hello to the little flying dinosaur!    


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