Family Oviraptoridae

This small family of toothless thero-pods lived in Late Cretaceous times in eastern Asia, and were named the "egg thieves" because of their suspected eating habits. They had large heads and short, deep beaks — quite unlike the long, narrow skulls and pointed beaks of their relatives, the ornithomimids or "ostrich dinosaurs" (see p. 109).

name: Oviraptor time: Late Cretaceous locality: Asia (Mongolia) size: 6 ft/1.8 m long

This "egg thief," for whom the family is named, had a distinctive skull, different from that of any other dinosaur. The head was almost parrotlike — short and deep, with a stumpy beak and no teeth. Powerful muscles operated the curved jaws, and gave the beak enough bite-power to crush objects as hard as bones. There was also a small, hornlike crest above the snout.

Oviraptor's body, however, was typical of the small, flesh-eating coelu-rosaurs. There were 3 grasping fingers on each hand, with strongly curved nails (each about 3 in/8 cm long). The animal walked upright on long, slender legs, each with 3 clawed toes. The body was .balanced by the long, outstretched tail.

It seems likely that Oviraptor ate eggs. The first specimen discovered in 1924 was found preserved with a clutch of eggs laid by the horned dinosaur ProW' ceratops (see p. 165), the inference being that the "egg thief" was overcome, maybe in a sudden sandstorm, while raiding the nest.

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