Two Oviraptors’ last dance fossilized in the Gobi Desert
We’ve known that Oviraptors were misnamed for quite some time now, but a recent set of fossils from the Gobi Desert are really rubbing salt in that wound. Nesting Oviraptors proved that these were the not the “egg hunters” they were originally thought to be, and now what is likely a mating pair of Khaan mckennai seems to be cementing their reputation as creatures that were never away from the nest.
This couple, nicknamed “Romeo and Juliet,” offer a great opportunity to learn about dinosaur sexual dimorphism. They appear to be the same species, age and size, ruling out many other common explanations for differences in their anatomy. The differences in question pertain to the raptors’ tails, wherein one specimen has notably larger tail bones than the other. While Oviraptors had feathers, they were flightless, which means that a more developed tail wasn’t being used for locomotion. Instead, it fits squarely with the model provided by many modern, male, flightless birds who use their large tails for courtship displays, like peafowl and turkeys.
With no sign of eggs nearby, it’s possible (but not known) that these Oviraptors were still at the early stages of courtship when they likely buried in a sandstorm. Unless some complicating evidence is found, these dinosaurs’ early, (tragic?) death at least means that “Romeo and Juliet” are more appropriate names than something relating to stealing eggs.
Source: Dinosaur 'Romeo and Juliet' Found Buried Together by Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News