Magazine article Science News

New Dinosaur Embryo Rewrites History

Magazine article Science News

New Dinosaur Embryo Rewrites History

Article excerpt

In 1923, at the Flaming Cliffs in Mongolia's Gobi desert, scientists from the American Museum of Natural History identified dinosaur eggs for the first time. They classified the eggs as belonging to Protoceratops, a small, plant-eating creature abundant in the area. Now, new evidence suggests that those investigators unknowingly mislabeled their find, researchers assert.

A member of the dinosaur family Oviraptoridae laid those eggs, report Mark A. Norell, also of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and his colleagues in the Nov. 4 SCIENCE. They are the first Western paleontologists allowed to search for fossils in Mongolia since 1930.

Norell and his colleagues compared their find -- a 70- to 80-million-year-old shell containing the nearly complete skeleton of an oviraptorid embryo -- to the empty eggshells discovered by the earlier scientists. Norell's team found the embryo last year several hundred kilometers from the Flaming Cliffs.

Researchers have uncovered only six or seven dinosaur embryos. This find marks the first discovery of a meat-eating dinosaur embryo, the team asserts.

The discovery "sort of cleared up this mystery of what the dinosaur eggs from the Flaming Cliffs were, which in paleontological circles has always been a pretty big thing," says Norell.

An oviraptorid dinosaur resembled a small ostrich with a tail, grew to about 6 feet in length, and sported a hornlike bump on the end of its beak. …

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