card
033

Oviraptorid Embryo

OLogy Series
specimen
card
033

Oviraptorid Embryo

OLogy Series
specimen

Fossils of dinosaur eggs rarely have bones inside them. In 1993, however, Museum scientists found an egg in the Gobi Desert that contained the remains of a tiny dinosaur embryo from 80 million years ago. Like most scientific discoveries, this one raises as many questions as it answers.

An "Eggs-traordinary" Discovery
In 1993, Mark Norell discovered a fossilized egg containing a curled-up oviraptorid embryo. These tiny bones helped explain a discovery from over 70 years ago. In the 1920s, Roy Chapman Andrews and his team had found a fossil of an adult Oviraptor on a nest of eggs. Andrews believed that the eggs belonged to Protoceratops, a common Cretaceous Gobi dinosaur. His theory was that the Oviraptor was raiding a nest of Protoceratops eggs. Because Dr. Norell's 1993 egg matched the eggs found in the 1920s, scientists now think that the Oviraptor found by Dr. Andrews was actually protecting its own nest of eggs.

The oviraptorid embryo was first noticed in the egg when:

it was cracked open with a hammer

it was found in the desert

it was CAT-scanned for its contents

Are you right?

Correct!

The egg was found on the desert surface already broken-open and exposing the bones within.

Mark Norell
paleontologist

It was possibly the greatest find we could ever imagine!

Fossil dinosaur embryos are plentiful and easy to find.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Scientists have found fossil embryos of only a few dinosaur species so far. The Oviraptor embryo is one of a kind.

Preparation: fossil in matrix
Locality Found: Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia
Date Collected: July 1993
Expedition Name: Gobi Expedition
Size: uncurled, the embryo would measure about 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length
Condition: well preserved, but missing tail and hindlimbs

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH; Mark Norell: courtesy of AMNH.