New dinosaur discovered in Mongolia

15 February 2019 | Story staff writer. Image Do Yoon Kim. Read time 3 min.
An artist’s reconstruction of the new dinosaur, Gobiraptor minutus.
An artist’s reconstruction of the new dinosaur, Gobiraptor minutus.

A new species of dinosaur – a type of oviraptorosaur – has been discovered in Mongolia by a team of researchers from South Korea and their colleagues, including UCT’s Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan.

Oviraptorosaurs were a diverse group of bird-like dinosaurs from the Cretaceous of Asia and North America. They are characterised by their short snouts that feature parrot-like beaks, and their commonly feathered hides. The diet and feeding strategies of these toothless dinosaurs are unclear despite the abundance of nearly complete oviraptorosaur skeletons that have been found in southern China and Mongolia.

In this study, the team describes an incomplete skeleton of an oviraptorosaur from the Late Cretaceous – around 100.5 to 66 million years ago – found in the Nemegt Formation of the Gobi Desert of Mongolia in 2008 during the Korea–Mongolia International Dinosaur Expedition.
 

In this study, the team describes an incomplete skeleton of an oviraptorosaur from the Late Cretaceous – around 100.5 to 66 million years ago – found in the Nemegt Formation of the Gobi Desert of Mongolia...

The unusual, thickened jaws of the new species (Gobiraptor minutus) distinguish it from other oviraptorosaurs and indicate that it may have used a crushing feeding strategy. This supports previous suggestions that oviraptorosaurs fed on hard foods, such as eggs, seeds or hard-shelled molluscs.

Chinsamy-Turan, from the UCT Department of Biological Sciences, contributed histological analyses of the skeleton’s femur, which revealed that the specimen was likely from a very young individual.

“The microscopic structure of the thigh bone of this Cretaceous-aged, baby dinosaur showed that it was richly inundated with blood vessels and that it was rapidly growing at the time of its death,” says Chinsamy-Turan.

The location of the G. minutus skeleton in the Nemegt Formation – which consists mostly of river and lake deposits – confirms that oviraptorosaurs were well adapted to wet environments. The research team proposes that different dietary strategies may explain the wide diversity and evolutionary success of this group in the region.

  • Lee S, Lee Y-N, Chinsamy A, Lü J, Barsbold R, Tsogtbaatar K (2019) A new baby oviraptorid dinosaur (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous Nemegt Formation of Mongolia. PLoS ONE 14(2): e0210867. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0210867
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