The Desert at Night

Part of the Fighting Dinos exhibition.

Visitors were introduced first to a striking diorama of the region now known as Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia, as it may have looked some 80 million years ago. Discovered in 1993 by a team of scientists from the American Museum of Natural History and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, the site at Ukhaa Tolgod has proved to be one of the world's richest locations for vertebrate fossils dating from near the end of the age of dinosaurs. The large diorama -- 50' wide and 11' high and created especially for the exhibition -- sets the stage for visitors: it provides a vivid snapshot of life during the Late Cretaceous period (between 65 to 90 million years ago), featuring actual-size models of some of the species that lived in the Gobi so long ago.

Some dinosaurs found in this scene:

Protoceratops Model

Protoceratops No larger than a sheep, Protoceratops fed exclusively on plants, as did its larger and more familiar North American relative, Triceratops. A distinctive feature of Protoceratops is its bony neck frill, which may have been used by Protoceratops to defend itself against predators. Or this feature may have helped Protoceratops attract a mate or scare off challengers of the same species, much as a deer uses its antlers.

Velociraptor Model

Velociraptor A member of the dromaeosaur group, Velociraptor shared a number of features with modern birds, including feathers. Although only the size of a coyote, Velociraptor was one of the chief predators here. Its deadliest weapon, though, was the huge talon on each of its hind feet, with which it could rip into the flesh of a victim.

Oviraptorid A group of dinosaurs closely related to birds, oviraptorid were nurturing parents that may have continued to care for their offspring after they hatched. Recent evidence indicates it had feathers. Its head crest, which resembles that of a modern hornbill, may have served to attract a mate.