Why Oviraptors weren’t dinosaur egg thieves, just great mothers!

In this scene, set in Mongolia about 80 million years ago, a carnivorous oviraptoran dinosaur feeds its hungry nestlings. Paleontologists working in Mongolia have discovered the fossil remains of eggs and embryos, as well as adult Oviraptors sitting atop their nests of eggs. This evidence suggests that Oviraptors tended their eggs and perhaps their young, as well. Paleontologists do not know for certain if Oviraptors had feathers as this artist shows, but other aspects of their anatomy and behavior suggest a kinship with birds.

 

One of the featured dinosaurs in the Tiny Titans: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies exhibit at the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center is the Oviraptor, a Theropod whose name means “egg thief.”

That name is a misnomer, however.

Oviraptors were dubbed thieves when paleontologists found their fossilized remains laying on top of nests, leading them to conclude that the dinosaurs fed on the eggs of other creatures, such as the Protoceratops.

However, later studies of the nests uncovered the embryos inside the eggs to be oviraptorid, meaning the dinosaurs actually died guarding their own nests. Paleontologists have concluded that the Oviraptors likely died guarding their nests during sudden sandstorms or other natural disasters.

An Oviraptor skeleton also was found brooding a clutch of eggs just like a bird, providing evidence of bird-like behavior that draws a comparison between the Late Cretaceous Period dinosaur and its close avian relatives.

Visitors to Tiny Titans will be able to re-enact that parental care by dressing up like an Oviraptor and brooding their nest at the Discovery Center. They also will be able to see real fossilized Oviraptor eggs, as well as digging for them in one of our Dino Dig pits.

Tiny Titans: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies, open through May 30, 2022, is an interactive exhibition that offers an astounding array of authentic dinosaur eggs and nests collected from all across the globe, in addition to great hands-on play experiences! To help celebrate the Oviraptor and all the other great mothers out there, all mothers will receive half-priced admission to the Discovery Center for Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 8, 2022, when it is open from noon to 5 p.m. Stop in and learn more about this maternal dinosaur while you can!

 

RELATED: Find out about the different families of dinosaurs on display at the Discovery Center here.

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